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Strasburg meets with Nats brass

Strasburg meets with Nats brass

The Nationals purposely told Stephen Strasburg as little as possible all season about their plan to prematurely shut him down -- aside from the fact they would shut him down at some point -- to keep the right-hander from thinking too much about how many innings he had left in his arm before the inevitable end.

Now that the end has nearly arrived, team officials understood it was time to have the conversation they had delayed to this point.

So Strasburg sat down this morning with general manager Mike Rizzo, manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty and was told in no uncertain terms he'll be shut down after two more starts (scheduled to take place Friday against the Marlins at Nationals Park and Sept. 12 against the Mets in New York).

Strasburg voiced his desire to continue pitching beyond the 170 innings or so he'll be held to, according to Johnson, but ultimately will accept the organization's decision.

"It's no secret that Stras is an intense competitor, wants to be here, wants to be contributing, wants to be helping," Johnson said. "And I'm sure it's probably eating him up more than anybody involved in this whole thing, because he wants to be here and help his teammates. He's worked harder than anybody coming back from Tommy John surgery, and this is what you dream about being a part of. I know how he feels."

Does Strasburg -- who tossed six scoreless innings yesterday to lower his ERA to 2.95 while raising his league-leading strikeout total to 195 -- understand what the Nationals are trying to do?

"Probably not," Johnson said. "I'm not sure any of us understand, but it's the right thing to do. The way I look at things, I don't think the job the Lerners and the front office have done building this organization, I don't look at this as the only chance you're going to get to be in the postseason or be in the World Series. This team wasn't just piece-mealed together for one year. It's built to last. And we're trying to make sure it lasts."

He may not agree with the decision, but Strasburg has known all along he wouldn't be allowed to finish the season on the mound. He said Sunday he won't abandon his teammates down the stretch, though, and will support them from the dugout.

"I'm in with these guys," he said. "We still have a long way to go. I'm going to fight with them to the end."

Johnson has heard all the criticisms from across the baseball -- and sometimes other sports -- world but insists the Nationals ultimately know what's best for their young ace and that he has properly used him all season.

"He's not a No. 5 starter. He's a No. 1 starter," Johnson said. "It's more detrimental and more haphazard to miss a start, push him back, push him back. That's more dangerous for the health of a pitcher. This is his first full year in the big leagues. It's a big increase in innings. There's tons of records to validate this decision."

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

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