The Washington Times - October 9, 2012, 03:50PM

Stephen Strasburg knows that this playoffs is different for him. He knows that his face shows up during the telecasts of the Washington Nationals’ games and that his absence, arguably one of baseball’s biggest storylines in the second half, is a part of the Nationals’ story, regardless of how the end is written.

He’s a playoff bystander, the Nationals having shut him down on Sept. 8 after they determined he’d hit his workload limit for the season. That day Strasburg admitted he didn’t think he was “ever going to accept, to be honest with you. It’s something that I’m not happy about at all.”

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But as the days have passed, Strasburg has resigned himself to his role this season. His eyes are now turned toward the future.

I don’t think (watching the playoffs) is painful in any sense,” he said Tuesday. “It’s hard being in the dugout, but at the same time it’s exciting and the atmosphere’s great.

“I just can’t wait for my opportunity.”

That was a sentiment the Nationals’ ace right-hander repeated on three different occasions over the course of a brief conversation lasting no more than three minutes.

The Nationals have said throughout this season, and particularly with regard to the plan to shut down Strasburg, that they are team built to succeed for years to come. Their core is very young, plenty of them are just entering the prime of their careers, and they hope to be in the position they’re in now on many more occasions. 

For Strasburg, that’s what he has to believe in order to get him through the process of watching helplessly during this playoff run.

Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who missed all of St. Louis’ World Series run in 2011 as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, spoke Saturday of the challenge he faced in trying to feel like he was a part of that team.

“During that time, I felt like I was a huge impact to that team,” Wainwright said. “I’m not sure I did anything, but I tricked myself into believing I was pretty important last year. I felt like I was there for anybody who needed me, at whatever level that was. Nothing else to do, right?”

Strasburg said he has not spoken with Wainwright about how he handled things last year, but another Cardinals’ starter has made an impact on his mentality.

“When I got hurt (Chris Carpenter) reached out to me and talked to me about recovering and everything,” Strasburg said of the right-hander who underwent Tommy John in 2007 and will start Game 3 on Wednesday.

“So I think just watching how he goes about it, coming off of Tommy John and the way he’s been such big-game pitcher in the playoffs, that’s one guy I’ve watched in the past. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity soon to do the same thing.”

There were several occasions this season that manager Davey Johnson spoke of Strasburg not “pitching” as much as “throwing,” and the process of maturing as a pitcher — pitching off his fastball, working in his offspeed and breaking stuff and knowing more when to throw which pitches when.

Strasburg said he has had a bit of a learning experience sitting and watching so many games, going through the progressions of pitches he might throw in certain situations, but came back to the fact that “a lot of times, you have to just do it.”

“You learn the most through your own experiences,” he said. “That’s just one thing that’s going to happen through time.”

He won’t get a chance to stand on the mound at Nationals Park this week and look around at 40,000 fans waving red towels, but he’s excited nonetheless. He’s smiling more and enjoying himself as much as possible, knowing his time will come eventually. 

“It’s awesome,” he said of the playoffs. “It’s great for this town. Obviously the guys are enjoying it a lot. We’re still staying confident and going after everybody just like we did in the regular season. I think (the first home game) is going to be fun. Hopefully the fans are rowdy. Waving their Natitude flags or towels or whatever.

“It’ll be interesting to see what the atmosphere is like.”