Stephen Strasburg: Pressure builds over innings limit

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg delivers against the San Francisco Giants during the fifth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. The Nationals won 6-4.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

(CBS News) Baseball's Washington Nationals are in first place in the National League East, and could make the World Series for the first time ever. But, they may have to do it without their best pitcher, Stephen Strasburg. The decision to bench all-star Stephen Strasburg sometime in the next few weeks is the subject of a raging debate, but the Nationals management says it's for his own good.

Just 24, Strasburg's already one of the best in the major leagues. His fastball screams across the plate at just under 100 miles per hour. He's led the Washington Nationals to the league's best record.

"I think the Nats are really the hope of the city," said baseball fan Krista Lundberg.

But sometime in the next few weeks - long before the World Series even begins - Strasburg's amazing season will suddenly end. In 2010, Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery, where doctors replaced a torn ligament in his elbow with a tendon from another part of his body. His doctors recommended he pitch no more than 160 to 180 innings this season. Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo decided last spring to heed their advice.

Now with the deadline approaching, Rizzo hasn't changed his mind. "I don't think I'd be doing my job as the caretaker of this franchise long term to forego the long term health of Stephen Strasburg for some short term gains in 2012."

Leo Mazzone, former pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves said, "it's pathetic." "Washington has a chance to go to the World Series and don't tell me down the road, 'Oh we'll get another shot at it,'" Mazzone said. "You may never get another shot at it ever again. To do this would be a slap in the face to the fans."

Even Tommy John, the pitcher Strasburg's surgery was named for, says it's a mistake, telling ESPN Radio, "The golden ring only comes around on the merry-go-round maybe one time."

"Stephen's an ultimate competitor," Rizzo said. "He's a horse, he's a warrior, and he wants to pitch. He's going to be angry by it, and we're going to have to rip the ball out of his hands." Rizzo has not said when he will end Strasburg's season, but the announcement is expected sometime in September.

James Brown, guest "CBS This Morning" co-host, is a part-owner of the Washington Nationals. He said the decision was "not too difficult once the information was compiled." "It was a prudent decision, was a decision made in the pre-season and the Nationals have been excellent about telling the public exactly what they're going to do and sticking with the game plan, which has been an excellent one so far."

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.