Commentary

Nats shouldn't shut down Strasburg

Updated: August 6, 2012, 10:54 AM ET
By Dick Vitale

Stephen StrasburgAP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaNationals fans should be rooting for Stephen Strasburg to stay in the game, even beyond 160 innings.

I am a big baseball fan. I do not know the sport as well as ESPN's Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian or Jayson Stark.

I do have opinions about baseball and here is one of them.

As a fan of the sport, I am surprised that the Washington Nationals are talking about shutting down pitcher Stephen Strasburg around the 160-inning mark.

Right now, Washington is 22 games over .500 and has a three-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East. Even if they slide a bit, they should make it as a wild card barring a total collapse.

This is a young team which has all of the momentum in the world. Manager Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo have come out and said they are trying to protect their pitcher.

Strasburg has a 12-5 record, 2.97 ERA, 160 strikeouts against just 34 walks, just 12 home runs allowed in 127S innings over 22 starts. He threw six solid innings in a win on Sunday.

Here is the concern: the right-hander is pitching his first full major league season following reconstructive elbow surgery in 2010. The team has said that they will be a contender for years, and that doing the right thing is important. Saving him for the future is a key.

The 160-innings number is not etched in stone yet, and it has caused some rumblings in the clubhouse. Strasburg even said in an interview that the Nationals will have to pull the ball from his hand.

If I was a fan of the Nationals, I would be upset. They have the potential to contend for a world title this year. The people paying their hard-earned money this season deserve to see Strasburg on the mound in September as the team battles for a playoff berth.

I don't understand why the team didn't try harder to limit his innings earlier in the season. Did they understand that the Nationals could be this good this early with so many young players like Bryce Harper coming through?

The bottom line is, the franchise has created a dilemma. Keep an eye on this after the next five or six Strasburg starts. It could get very interesting for the Nationals.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.