General manager Mike Rizzo said before the season that the Nationals would limit Stephen Strasburg to 160 innings as he comes back from Tommy John elbow surgery, but no one, including Strasburg, seems to think that will actually happen.
Strasburg has already thrown 99 innings, putting him on pace for around 193, and when asked about the potential 160-inning limit by MLB Network Radio he replied: “They’re going to have to rip the ball out of my hands.”
Strasburg went on to say: “I have no clue how many innings I’m going to throw this year. I’ve answered that question multiple times, and nobody’s said anything to me. I feel great right now.”
He’s averaged 5.82 innings per start, so to go from a 193-inning pace to a 160-inning pace he’d have to skip 5-6 of his remaining 15-16 starts. Shorter starts are also an option, although Strasburg has been allowed to top 100 pitches in a game just six times as is and the Nationals will presumably want to keep him fully stretched out for potential postseason games.
And those playoff starts would make it even tougher to keep Strasburg at or around 160 innings for the season, assuming the Nationals include those in the count. If they don’t skip any of his regular season starts and he ends up pitching in the playoffs, Strasburg could easily approach 210-220 innings.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.