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Strasburg's limit: 160 innings

WASHINGTON - Rookie Stephen Strasburg will start the Nationals' first game after the All-Star break, on July 16 at Florida, then stick to a regular turn in the rotation until he exhausts his 160-inning limit for the season.

After his start against the San Francisco Giants on Friday, Strasburg has pitched 98 innings in 2010 - 422/3 in seven starts in the majors and 551/3 at two levels in the minors.

That leaves 62 innings to reach the ceiling the Nationals set for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft as he adjusts from college to professional baseball. If he continues to average about six innings per outing, that would mean about 10 more starts this season, which would carry him into the first week of September.

"When the innings are done, they're done," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "If that falls at the end of August or early September, then that'll be it."

Riggleman said the Nationals are setting aside a plan that would have spread out Strasburg's appearances with extra rest in order to have the righthander available until the end of September.

Instead, Strasburg will pitch regularly on four days' rest - or five, if there happens to be a day off that falls between his turns.

"We wish that his cap was 190, 200 innings and it wasn't an issue," Riggleman said, "but that's not the case this year."

He said the team decided to go with the new schedule for Strasburg, who will be followed by Livan Hernandez on July 17, in order to let teammates know the last-place Nationals are intent on trying to win as many games as possible this season.

"This is just really, basically, about a message to our players: 'You guys have played hard. You're keeping us in range. Let's stay in range,' " Riggleman said.

The 21-year-old Strasburg, who signed a record $15.1-million contract, is 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in his first seven starts in the majors, with 32 hits, 61 strikeouts and 11 walks in 422/3 innings.

Once Strasburg is done pitching this season, he will stay with the major league club, Riggleman said.

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