When Stephen Strasburg took the mound Tuesday night, it was with a strict 60-pitch limit and very little wiggle room. He worked around that four-inning expectation by being so efficient he had 12 pitches to spare on his max when the fourth inning ended.
Sunday afternoon, as he makes his second major league start this season, Strasburg’s limits will be loosened. While Nationals manager Davey Johnson said after Tuesday’s start that he expected Strasburg to be allowed to go longer (he estimated 70-80 pitches), he amended that on Saturday.
“I’m just going to go by what I see,” Johnson said. “I don’t have a set number. I’m going to see how it’s going on. I’m not going to let him struggle or anything like that.”
Strasburg needed 56 pitches to get through five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Against the worst team in the major leagues, the Houston Astros, he may not even need that much. Johnson’s loose leash allows them to adjust as the game goes on and based on how their prized right-hander is working.
There will also be one more change to the plans for Sunday. Unlike Tuesday when Johnson expected to have right-hander Brad Peacock, recently named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, follow Strasburg to the mound and piggy back on him, that will not be the case on Sunday. It wasn’t technically the way things transpired on Tuesday, anyway, with Johnson opting to go with left-hander Doug Slaten immediately following Strasburg and ended up having to bring in Peacock — a starter for almost all of his career — with two men on and Dodgers’ slugger Matt Kemp at the plate for his major league debut.
In order to give Strasburg more leeway and avoid a similar situation with Peacock, Johnson said he does not plan to use Peacock in relief Sunday, but will actually get him a start sometime this coming week when the Nationals are in New York. Peacock was 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA in the minor leagues this season, making 22 starts.
Peacock threw a bullpen session on Friday afternoon and would be on track to throw another one on Sunday — or pitch a few relief innings — to prepare for a start that would come in New York on most likely Wednesday or Thursday.
Ross Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang are expected to start the Nationals’ first two games in New York this coming week.