WASHINGTON -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will be on an innings limit next season as he continues his comeback from reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow.

"I've already calculated it, semi-calculated it, in my mind with our medical staff and our pitching people," general manager Mike Rizzo said Sunday. "We've already discussed it."

Rizzo didn't say what Strasburg's limit will be.

"We're still at the beginning of that process. We want to find out how he feels at the end of the season and where he's at. We'll calculate it and see what's a comfortable amount for him," Rizzo said.

Strasburg had his ligament-replacement operation in September 2010, then returned to the majors this September. He is 0-1 with a 2.00 ERA, zero walks and 14 strikeouts in 18 innings heading into the fifth start of his comeback Wednesday at the Florida Marlins on the last day of the regular season.

Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann, who had the same surgery as Strasburg in August 2009, was shut down this season after reaching his innings limit. He threw 161 1/3 innings, making his last start on Aug. 28.

With Strasburg and Zimmermann set for next year's rotation, and the lineup taking shape, Rizzo looked ahead to the offseason by declaring: "I think we're an outfield bat away and a starting pitcher away from really being a contender in the division."

Entering Sunday's home finale against the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals were in third place in the NL East. Washington never has finished that high since moving from Montreal before the 2005 season.

"With the personnel that we have, I think you're seeing a very young team kind of maturing at the same time and it looks good for the future," Rizzo said.

He addressed a variety of other topics:

• Rizzo won't reveal it, but he has a timetable in mind for having a permanent manager in place. Davey Johnson replaced Jim Riggleman on an interim basis in July.

"We certainly have a plan that we'd like to put in place so we can get on with the offseason," Rizzo said.

Johnson is under contract for next year and Rizzo said he will work for the Nationals even if he's not brought back as the manager -- which appears to be a strong possibility.

"There's a long process it's got to go through," Johnson said, "and I'm very comfortable with that."

• The Nationals have started contract talks with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who went 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts coming back from shoulder surgery.

"He wants to be here, we want to have him and so I think there's a lot of mutual interest," Rizzo said.

• Washington could use pitching depth to make trades.

"Our pitching depth is the best I've seen since I've been around here, since the Lerners acquired the team (in 2006). We certainly would discuss trades to fill some of our needs, if the trade makes sense," Rizzo said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press


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