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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 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

Nationals 2017 promotional giveaways include snow globes and fedoras

The Washington Nationals recently released the dates of their promotional days and giveaways this season, and there are some real gems in this schedule.

Among the standard bobblehead giveaways — Daniel Murphy on April 14, Trea Turner on May 12 and Tanner Roark on June 9 — and the highly recommended Pups in the Park days — April 29, May 13, June 10, June 25, September 7 and September 30 — pick the right game and you could get a snow globe, an American flag shirt or even a fedora. Seriously.

On May 24’s game against the Mariners, the first 25,000 fans will get a Max Scherzer snow globe, which has the potential to be the coolest knickknack in your house. Or on June 14 against the Braves — oddly not closer to the Fourth of July — Budweiser is behind the first 15,000 21-and-up fans getting an American flag tank top.

But truly the most unique item on this list is the Nationals-themed fedora, which will go to the first 25,000 fans at the Brewers’ July 26 matchup. How the Nats landed on this promotional item remains a mystery, but if you like hats beyond a traditional baseball cap, this is the game to attend.

Other cool or oddball promotions include the Nats Magic 8-Ball game April 3, the Chewbacca Koozie day May 27, Bryce Harper action figure day August 29 and Oktoberfest beer stein day Sept. 29.

Here's the complete list of the team's promotional days and giveaways

MORE NATS: Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well in 2016

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Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan