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MLB Washington Nationals

2013 MLB Preview: Stephen Strasburg to Pitch Without Limits

(Derick Hingle/USA Today Sports)

During the 2011 MLB season, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson was like a child on Christmas Eve. Underneath the tree sat his present —  an unbelievably talented starting pitcher with velocity on his fastball and drop on his breaking ball: Stephen Strasburg.

Then came 2012. Strasburg returns from Tommy John surgery which forced him to miss the entire 2011 season. This is where Johnson finally got to open his present. Despite Strasburg’s anticipated return and successful recover from elbow surgery, Johnson was forced to put his most prized position on an inning limit in order to preserve the asset.

For Johnson, the 2013 season couldn’t have come soon enough.

After an entire year of rehabilitation and having to end  his season before reaching 160 innings pitched, Strasburg is ready to finish games and exceed the 200 inning mark as the Nationals’ ace.

Even without Strasburg being able to finish games past the seventh, Johnson was awarded National League Coach of the Year honors for leading the Nationals to the playoffs. Strasburg, coupled with standout starter Gio Gonzalez, will make facing Washington a daunting task for any offensive lineup.

On Monday, Strasburg will attempt to finish his first career complete game against the Miami Marlins on behalf of the defending NL East champions. Strasburg is 4-0 in games in which he finished seven innings, and has a 1.29 ERA in seven games that lasted to the seventh inning stretch.

Most baseball fans were anxious to see exactly what Strasburg was capable of when he deputed for the Nationals. However, his injury denied everyone that opportunity. No body knows how late Strasburg can go in a tight game, and no one knows the kind of influence he can be late in a playoff run. Overall, Strasburg is 21-10 with a 2.94 ERA in 45 career starts since joining the Nationals.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what Strasburg has up his sleeve. Not only am I not a Nationals fan, but I really don’t care for any National League play. However, Strasburg’s comeback, along with Washington’s unnatural success over the past two seasons, makes me excited to watch a team that was once the Montreal Expos.

John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports, and works for ESPNLA 710 AM Radio as well. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.