As Stephen Strasburg's rebuilt right elbow continues to heal from Tommy John surgery, one question follows the pitcher. How many innings will he throw next season?
Fellow starter Jordan Zimmermann was limited to 160 innings - though he finished at 161 1/3 - this season, his first full one since undergoing the ligament-replacement procedure in 2009.
Washington Nationals trainer Lee Kuntz and pitching coach Steve McCatty emphasized each pitcher's innings ceiling is unique and built around their age, conditioning, innings in the previous season and big- league innings before the injury.
Zimmermann's total was a 20 percent increase over his previous career high. That's in line with the popular approach in baseball to not increase a young pitcher's workload by more than 20 percent each season.
The 20 percent model puts Strasburg at 147 innings next season, after he combined for 123 1/3 innings in the minors and big leagues in 2010.
Tommy John surgery doesn't preclude pitchers from throwing plenty of innings in their first full season back. Chris Carpenter, for example, threw 192 2/3 in his first one and Tim Hudson reached 228 2/3. But both pitchers bested those totals earlier in their careers.
While Kuntz and McCatty won't speak specifically about Strasburg's limit, no decision will be made until spring training. And Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed Strasburg's surgery, and the Nationals' front office likely will be involved to determine how many times, exactly, Strasburg will step onto a mound in 2012.
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