- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2012

ST. LOUIS — Stephen Strasburg went through the Washington Nationals’ workout Saturday afternoon much the way he has every day since Sept. 8. He was a part of it, but on the periphery. He is not on the Nationals’ NLDS roster. He will not pitch for them in the playoffs.

It’s a feeling Adam Wainwright knows all too well, as he missed the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The righty, who will start for the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS on Sunday afternoon against Gio Gonzalez, was in exactly the same position during the Cardinals‘ 2011 World Series run.

“During the time, I felt like I was a huge impact to that team,” Wainwright said of his experience last season. “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?”

The Nationals have done their best to make Strasburg feel included in their stretch drive and playoff run. The right-hander, who was notably shut down for the season after 159 1/3 innings in his first full season back after Tommy John surgery, was right in the thick of things during the team’s NL East championship celebration and to a man every teammate noted his contributions to that title.

So Strasburg will do what he can. Wainwright said he rarely feels like the 2011 World Series title was something accomplished without him, until “autograph seekers hand me a ball and it’s a 2011 World Series ball, and then they take it back and say, ‘No, no, sign this one instead.’ That’s when it hits that I really didn’t get to do a whole lot.”

Wainwright called his rehab from Tommy John a “journey” and without saying as much he seemed to be empathizing with the plight of the Nationals’ ace.

The first part of Wainwright’s season was not to the standard the Cardinals‘ righty has come to expect from himself. He called his April, in which he had a 7.32 ERA, “an embarrassment to this team and to the game of baseball.” He experienced plenty of the same symptoms coming back as Strasburg did and those symptoms: fatigue and inconsistency to name a few, were one of the main reasons why the Nationals chose to shut him down when they did.

“I certainly respect the fact that they made the decision and stood by it,” said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak. “History shows that you do have to be smart with the workload when you’re bringing someone back. I also think the way you might reflect on it is different by the age of the player and what they’ve accomplished in the past. It’s not one simple answer. I think you’ve got to look through a set of lenses that allows you to have some flexibility. But I think what they did was the best decision for their player.”

Strasburg will be a spectator. He’ll certainly be a topic during the nationally-televised broadcasts and likely it’ll be only his cheering for his teammates that’ll be on display. He’s the ace of a team but helpless to assist them as they chase the sport’s greatest prize. Wainwright knows how he feels.

“I totally get now why Tommy John recovery is so hard,” Wainwright said. “Just as a competitor and as a man, just feeling blessed to be a baseball player, professionally, for a living. I’ve learned to appreciate that a lot more. This game I get to play is very special to me, and missing that time last year, I really learned how much I love the game.”

Garcia, Moore make postseason roster

The Nationals haven’t announced their NLDS roster and manager Davey Johnson played coy when asked about it. He hadn’t gotten the St. Louis Cardinals roster, so he wasn’t about to give away any secrets.

“I think we’re going to hold that off so nobody gets an edge on us,” Johnson said.

But the Nationals had very few difficult decisions to parse the roster from 33 to 25 for their first playoff series. According to a team source, the Nationals decided to go with four starting pitchers, eight relievers and 13 position players.

Not on the active roster: Mark DeRosa, John Lannan, Eury Perez, Corey Brown, Sandy Leon, Chien-Ming Wang, Zach Duke and Stephen Strasburg.

Making the cut were right-hander Christian Garcia, rookie outfielder/infielder Tyler Moore and left-handed long man Tom Gorzelanny.

Perez, Brown and Leon went to Viera, Fla., to continue working out and remain ready in the event of an injury on the major league roster. DeRosa, Lannan, Strasburg, Duke and Wang remained with the Nationals.

Jackson, Detwiler to start

The Nats already had announced Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann as their starters for Games 1 and 2 at Busch Stadium, and Johnson said today Edwin Jackson would start Game 3 in Washington and Ross Detwiler would follow in Game 4.

Johnson acknowledged he might have swapped Jackson and Detwiler had the Braves advanced, given Atlanta’s lefty-heavy lineup, but said that wasn’t a lock.

“I kind of like the experience that Edwin Jackson brings,” he said.

Matheny, meanwhile, hadn’t even officially announced his starter for Sunday’s Game 1, though the worst-kept secret in town had revealed itself 30 minutes earlier when Adam Wainwright took the podium as the next day’s starter.

So it’ll be Wainwright in the opener, followed by Jaime Garcia in Monday’s Game 2, the veteran Chris Carpenter for Game 3 in D.C. and wild-card game starter Kyle Lohse in Game 4.

Johnson’s back improving

The back problem that left Johnson’s left leg numb and forced him from Wednesday’s regular-season finale is improving. Some feeling has returned to the leg, the Nationals manager said Saturday.

“I had about an hour on the table where they jabbed me and put some Novocaine and cortisone to ease the inflammation,” Johnson said. “I feel a heck of a lot better.”

Cortisone has been the Nationals’ wonder drug this season. Ryan Zimmerman got an injection in his right shoulder’s AC joint in June and Danny Espinosa took one in his left shoulder in September. Both shots kept the players from extended disabled-list stints — and took away pain they felt at the plate.

Johnson left the dugout in the seventh inning against the Phillies, worried by the numbness that aspirin and muscle relaxers couldn’t defeat. Five X-rays by Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih diagnosed Johnson with narrowing between his L3 and L4 vertebrae. That caused the numbness.

Johnson admitted his back remained stiff Saturday, not helped by the chilly afternoon. He walked gingerly into his press conference, but later played catch along the third base line and looked like his old self.

“I think with Davey,” Gonzalez said, “he’s just got to stay healthy.”

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