WASHINGTON — Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg chuckled the moment the subject was broached. His response sounded as if it had been memorized off a note card.
"I have no clue how many innings I'm going to throw this year," he said. "I've answered that question multiple times, and nobody's said anything to me. I feel great right now."
The All-Star right-hander keeps hearing the question because many are wondering: If the Nationals are still contenders in September, will they really follow through with the plan to shut down their ace a month early?
That is the accepted medical norm for a pitcher coming back from elbow-ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery. The plug will be pulled somewhere around 160 innings, just as it was last year for teammate Jordan Zimmermann.
But this year's Nationals are 15 games over .500 and have a four-game lead in the NL East, and Strasburg has thrown 100 innings, including a scoreless frame in Tuesday's All-Star Game.
The Strasburg plan seemed okay in spring training when optimistic scenarios had the club perhaps in the mix for the second wild-card berth, but now it might have a chance to give the city a World Series title.
"Last year we almost got to .500, and I felt for sure the progression here was we could come close to winning 90 games if everything fell into place and we started doing the things I knew we were capable of doing," manager Davey Johnson said. "We got us more arms during the offseason, and they really helped me with the bench. There are more weapons here now to where we have progressed more rapidly."
Regardless, the Nationals aren't budging on the Strasburg Plan, at least not so far. GM Mike Rizzo figures this young roster is poised to be a contender for years to come, so there's no use risking Strasburg by pushing him too hard.
Strasburg threw 99 innings in 17 starts before the break, going 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA. At this pace, he would probably hit his innings limit around the first week of September.
Met's clot issue may not be over
NEW YORK — RHP Dillon Gee was to be released from a hospital after having surgery to break up a blood clot in his throwing shoulder, the Mets said in a release.
The team added that Gee could have more surgery to prevent a recurrence. ESPN.com reported he will have that surgery Friday to fix artery damage and could be out for the season.
Gee, 26, previously set to pitch the first game after the break, was put on the disabled list. He complained of numb fingers on his right hand Sunday, a day after he pitched. LHP Josh Edgin will be called up from Triple-A Buffalo.
Triple-A All-Star Game: Royals outfield prospect Wil Myers drove in one run and scored another to lead the Pacific Coast League to a 3-0 win over the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Buffalo, N.Y. Myers had two hits to follow up on his three-RBI night at the Futures Game in Kansas City, Mo.
Rays prospect Leslie Anderson of Durham played rightfield and had two infield singles for the International League. Durham RHP Dane De La Rosa had two of the IL's 11 strikeouts during his shutout inning. He allowed one hit.
Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia, on the DL since June 27 with a groin strain, will throw a simulated game Friday and has been slotted into the rotation for Tuesday against Toronto.
Schilling bankruptcy: Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said financial reviews and court testimony will show he is not responsible for the collapse of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's video game company. Chafee said he is committed to recouping the state's investment in 38 Studios, which received a $75 million loan but filed for bankruptcy protection in June. Schilling has said Chafee's comments about the company's solvency frightened off potential investors.