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Stephen Strasburg was cruising through seven innings, throwing just 80 pitches against Miami.
All in all, it was a good day for Stephen Strasburg (7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K).
After giving up a leadoff hit to Juan Pierre in the first inning, he retired the next 19 hitters before Giancarlo Stanton hit a one-out double in the top of the seventh inning.
The young ace got the win and was actually trying to let the natural movement on his pitches carry him—not simply trying strike every hitter out. It worked to perfection, as he threw just 80 pitches through seven innings and never really got in any trouble.
Then Davey Johnson decided to take his starter out after just 80 pitches and turn things over to his bullpen in a 2-0 game.
Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano went two scoreless innings to preserve the win, but this was an odd decision by the Nats manager.
It is easy to understand not wanting to burn Strasburg out if he is struggling—which was clearly not the case here. It is even easy to justify taking him out after seven innings in the season opener with the luxury of a deeper bullpen this year.
But this came off as yet another sign that the organization doesn't really trust Strasburg to do what he is clearly capable of doing unencumbered.
Johnson said after the game (via Bill Ladson, MLB.com) that, on most days, he would have left his star pitcher out there: "Any other day, I would have gone further with him, but with the adrenaline going on Opening Day, he could have been a little spent."
Strasburg was quick to agree with his manager, saying if this wasn't his first start of the year that "it would have been a different story."
As logical as that sounds, you can understand where the skepticism comes from given what we saw last year. There are few pitchers in the game who can do the kind of things Stephen Strasburg can do. But in order for him to fully blossom, he has to be free to fly.
Protecting your best pitcher is one thing; babying is another.