WASHINGTON -- A day after Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was told that he would be shut down for the rest of the season, several of his teammates said they understood why Strasburg was upset with the team's decision, but they also understood that the team wants Strasburg to play for the club for many years to come.
Strasburg had been on an innings limit since having Tommy John surgery in September 2010. He pitched 159 1/3 innings this season and was 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA, allowing five runs over three innings in what became his final start on Friday.
Strasburg acknowledged it bothered him for more than a week that he was going to be shut down. He recently told manager Davey Johnson that he had problems sleeping.
"We knew it was coming," said infielder Mark DeRosa. "I had a long talk with Stephen yesterday. It's disappointing because he is such an elite talent and it's fun to watch him take the mound every [fifth] day. But I also can't imagine what he has been dealing with, mentally.
"But we keep going. Gio [Gonzalez], Jordan [Zimmermann], Edwin [Jackson], all these guys have pitched like number ones all year. I don't see any reason why it should affect anything chemistry-wise in the clubhouse. We won't let it. These guys have played too good. We have played too hard, too long. We knew it was going to happen. Stephen will be there for us the whole way. He was a huge part of this team's success up until this point. They are doing what they feel is necessary for their future for him."
Zimmermann knows what it's like to be in Strasburg's shoes. Last season, Zimmermann was on an innings limit and pitched 161 1/3 innings because of prior elbow-reconstruction surgery.
"I went through the same thing last year and left on a bad note," Zimmermann said. "I had to sit on that all offseason. It just makes you work harder and want to get back. I think he is taking it pretty hard. ... You can't look into it too much. They had the 160 mark set since however far back. You knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I thought he would get another crack at finishing [the season] strong. It is what it, we'll move on."
Asked what advice he would give Strasburg now that his season is over, Zimmermann said, "He is done throwing now. All he can work on is getting stronger and lifting weights. I'm sure they want him to lift until the end of the year and take his little break. Just keep working hard. I just tell him to keep doing what he is doing. He works out more than anyone on this team. He is strong as an ox. Everything will work out fine."
Second baseman Danny Espinosa pointed out that the Nationals have been without some of their major players for lengthy periods this season and still found a way to have the best record in baseball.
"It's unfortunate to lose Strasburg," Espinosa said. "That's the team's decision and there is nothing we can do about it. We dealt with losing guys all year long. We lost them to injuries, so I think this is just another challenge for us to step up and show we can do it.
"We just go about it and know that one guy doesn't make a team. We understand it's a group effort. Just because one guy is not out there, it does not mean the rest of us are just going to give up and not try and do the best we can. I just think that is the mentality of this team. We are going to go out there and play hard."
Nationals reliever Sean Burnett (elbow soreness) played catch on Saturday and didn't have any problems. He was scheduled to do the same thing on Sunday. If it went well, Burnett will have a bullpen session at Citi Field on Monday.
Burnett has been a valuable reliever this year, appearing in 61 games and compiling a 2.49 ERA.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.