Mike Rizzo won't shut down Stephen Strasburg, despite Nationals' struggles

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By , Audacy

The Washington Nationals are dead last in the National League East, and they’re so far behind the fourth-place Atlanta Braves that they need binoculars to see them in the standings.

Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg is making progress in his injury rehab. But could the Nationals’ struggles mixed with Strasburg’s long injury history prompt the team to just play it safe, shut him down and try again next season?

The team’s primary decision-maker isn’t entertaining that.

Strasburg has made just seven starts since signing a huge contract to stay in Washington following the Nats’ 2019 World Series win. Since then, the 33-year-old has dealt with a nerve issue in his hand, right shoulder inflammation and, ultimately, needed surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

But now, he’s on a five-day pitching schedule – a promising sign that perhaps he could return at some point in June. By then, Washington’s season might be completely lost. So, during an appearance Wednesday on 106.7 "The Fan”, Mike Rizzo was asked if shutting Strasburg down, even if healthy, would ever be on the table if the Nationals are too far out of the playoff picture by the time he’s ready to return.

“I think it’s an oversimplification, that’s how I’ll describe it," Rizzo told "The Sports Junkies". "When athletes and players and pitchers are healthy, they’re going to pitch. That’s what they do for a living, that’s what they get paid for, so when we deem – Joe Ross and Stras and anybody else that’s on the (IL), which is a long list of guys – when we deem them ready to participate in the big leagues and to help us in the big leagues, they’ll be brought up just like in any other season because that’s what we do.

“That’s what these guys get paid for, and that’s what they want to do. I think that a healthy player, a healthy pitcher, if you want to hold them back through the year they wouldn’t let you because they’re healthy and they pitch for a living and they’re competitors and that’s what they want to do.”

Ultimately, bringing Strasburg back in a low-stakes environment might be the best course of action. One would think he would prefer to get some starts in this year, even if it won’t help in a playoff push, and those outings might be useful for rectifying issues so that he can better hit the ground running in 2023.

Either way, it sounds like you can bank on Strasburg making big league starts this year so long as he has the medical clearance.

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