The Nationals weren’t sure whether it was a good idea to give Stephen Strasburg a fifth and final start on the last day of the season, but they’re probably glad they did after witnessing a stellar performance today.
Strasburg allowed just one hit over six innings and struck out 10 in a 79-pitch masterpiece against the Marlins on Wednesday. He picked up the victory — his first in five starts since returning from Tommy John surgery — in the 3-1 win.
Strasburg ends his September comebacks with a 1.50 ERA and a 24/2 K/BB ratio in 24 innings. He didn’t allow a homer. He now has a 2.54 ERA and a 116/19 K/BB ratio in 92 innings since debuting in 2010.
It’s still a ways off, but it will be interesting to see where the Nationals slot Strasburg into next year’s rotation. Strasburg figures to be their best pitcher, but Jordan Zimmermann probably deserves the nod after amassing a 3.18 ERA in his 26 starts this year. Since Strasburg will be on an innings limit next year, the Nats might decide to make him their fifth starter initially, allowing them to better control his workload.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.