Davey Johnson on his decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg

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By Tom Schad

Nationals manager Davey Johnson walked into the training room Saturday morning and told Stephen Strasburg that his 2012 season had come to an end. Here are Johnson’s full comments to the media after he announced the decision:

“Well, I just told Stephen that his year’s over. He’s had a great year. I know what he’s going through for the past couple weeks. The media hype on this thing has been unbelievable. I feel it’s hard for him, as it would be anybody, to get mentally, totally committed in a ballgame. And he’s reached his innings limit that was set two years ago, so we can get past this and talk about other things for a change.”

On how Strasburg took the news
“He’s emotional about it. He’s a competitor, he’s one heck of a pitcher and a heck of a competitor. I know he’s been struggling with it for a few weeks, and I know he doesn’t sleep good thinking about it. Shoot, I’ve heard so much advice from every ex-pitcher, every guru on the matter that it would be his decision, but it’s not.”

On who made the call|
“I made this call. My job is to do what I think’s best for the player, and this is what’s best.”

On whether it was more mental than physical
“Yeah. If you’re not there 100 percent mentally - I mean he’s a gifted athlete, his velocity could still be there, but I don’t see the crispness. I don’t see the ball jumping out of his hand. But it’s more – I’m a firm believer that this game is 90-95 percent mental. And he’s only human, and I don’t know how anybody can be totally mentally concentrating on the job at hand with the media hype to this thing. And I think that we’d be risking more sending him back out.”

On whether he expected the media hype
“It’s a great subject to second-guess on, and I mean I’m mentally worn out seeing it all the time myself. The kitty-kat letter to the pitcher is almost the last straw for me. It has its toll not only on Stephen, but on the rest of the guys in the club. It’s a distraction.”

On when he detected that toll
“Yeah. I mean I’ve detected it his last three or four starts. He’s such a competitor, he so wants to be involved. This is his dream. So that’s the hard part. He’ll be here, he just won’t be pitching.”

On Lannan’s role going forward
“Yeah, he’s going to take his spot against the Mets on Wednesday.”

On Strasburg’s season as a whole
“He had great year, an outstanding year. Even with this looming over him. [Jordan] Zimmermann had a great year last year, same situation except for we weren’t in the thick of it. Again, the situation of the team doesn’t really affect my judgment on what’s best for the player, no matter who the player is.”

On whether Strasburg was relieved 
“No, and he was in the training room, I wasn’t going to drag it out. I’m just taking the ball out of his hands.”

On whether Johnson would’ve done anything differently
“No, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. And even with all the so-called experts commenting on how to use him, how to get him through October, how to do this, how to do that, I have a little bit of experience in how to handle a pitching staff. And none of those scenarios fit. I mean, if they did, I would’ve pursued them. The handling of any pitcher, they like regular work. They don’t need to be a reliever and then come in and start starting. He’s way past that. And there’s dangers in changing a pitcher’s program. If you put enough thought in on how you’re going to handle a pitcher or player in getting him prepared for the season, there’s never any second-guessing.”


On whether Johnson would’ve changed how the decision was communicated to Strasburg
“It was cut in stone, actually two years ago with Jordan Zimmermann. The media hype, just because it’s Stephen Strasburg, No. 1 pick, with the great fanfare he had coming in … I’d have to blame the media more for creating some mental preparation problems more than anything. There’s a whole new scenario, but it’s the same scenario on Strasburg as there was on Zimmermann. But the situation …”

“He’s known all along the situation. But with the media attention, I see it’s harder for him to concentrate on the job at hand. And I’m sure he’s physically a little tired. But this kind of distraction has really kind of exacerbated the situation to the point where I don’t think it’s in his best interest to go get one more start.”

On when Johnson”s worries about Strasburg crossed the line
“Well that conversation was a week ago. That was – I understood that completely. Shoot, I a lot of times wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things. And I can imagine with all the attention this has had – you can’t hardly turn on the TV without somebody commenting on it, why it’s wrong what we’re doing. How that would wear on anybody. But I sensed it really just almost from the first pitch of the ballgame yesterday that that was going to be it for him. So I discussed it with McCatty and Mike Rizzo and they were in agreement.”

On whether the decision was made Friday
“Yeah, I talked to Mike and said I’m gonna curtail his last start. I told him that last night and I said I’ll be glad to think about it overnight and we’ll talk about it again in the morning. But when I re-visited it I felt the same way. So, turn the page.”

On whether it’s a relief for Johnson, and the team
“I’m sure. I got 25 very talented guys over there. Well, more than that now. But it can be a distraction. They’ve handled it very well. But we need to move past it.”

On procedural issues (whether Strasburg will stay on active roster)
“I don’t know. I don’t even know how we did Jordan. I don’t even know how that works.”

On the rotation going forward
“I love my rotation. Very talented. And Lannan is plus also. He’s 2-0. So I feel good about where we’re at.”

 

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About the Author
Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak

Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.

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