Oh, to be 24 again without a care in the world. That's the life Stephen Strasburg lives every day. However, soon it will all be over. In a few weeks, the Washington Nationals' ace will be 25 years old and in the midst of an intense pennant race.

Oh, to be 24 again without a care in the world.

That's the life Stephen Strasburg lives every day. However, soon it will all be over. In a few weeks, the Washington Nationals' ace will be 25 years old and in the midst of an intense pennant race.

For right now, Strasburg is mowing down hitters and placing the burden of a "good" problem for the Nationals organization.

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Strasburg made five starts at the end of the 2011 season and has come back stronger than ever in 2012.

The Nationals made it clear they would not push Strasburg past 160 innings this season as to not overload his precious right arm so soon after major surgery.

Seems like a smart decision, especially since Strasburg has been every bit as great as the hype that followed him said he would be.

Here's the problem — the Nationals are in first place, and with one of the best young pitching staffs in all of baseball, there's no reason to think they won't stay there right through the summer.

Strasburg has made 14 starts in 2012 and thrown 84 innings. At this rate, Strasburg will hit the 160-inning mark with about a month left in the regular season.

What if the Nationals are still in first place, or at the very least contending for a postseason berth? Remember, there's an extra wild card spot up for grabs this year, so it stands to reason more teams will be in contention longer.

The Nationals will probably find ways to give Strasburg a rest here and there, maybe even put him on the disable list for a couple of weeks for a "tired arm" just to keep his innings count low.

Still, if the Nationals are a serious threat in October, they need Strasburg to pitch, and that will mean blowing past 160 innings. It's very plausible for the Nationals to keep him under 160 innings in the regular season, but add a handful of starts in the postseason and Strasburg is going to go well past 200.

How important is that innings limit? The Nationals have continued to stand firm that their prized right-hander will be sticking to his 160 innings.

Of course, when the pressure of October baseball is staring them in the face, perhaps they will feel differently.

It's understandable to be concerned about Strasburg, undergoing surgery so early in his career and wanting to make sure he is effective for 15-plus years. But there is such a thing as babying a pitch too much.

For every Kerry Wood or Mark Prior, there is a Joba Chamberlain who the Yankees were too cautious with and transformed him from reliever to starter back to reliever to starter and reliever again.

Chamberlain has never been the same in four years and may never recapture the stuff he had back in 2007.

Nolan Ryan made is very clear when he took over as president with the Texas Rangers that he believed in not babying his pitchers and did not subscribe to limiting innings for young pitchers.

It's a philosophy, not an exact science. There are examples of pitchers who were overworked and flamed out early, while there are just as many pitchers who were workhorses from the age of 20 and never stopped until they were 40.

Luck could play a big role in all of this, and Strasburg could throw 210 innings this year and be fine, or he could out in his next start and blow his shoulder out for good. (Geez, let's hope not.)

The Nationals are a super exciting team, and as a baseball nerd, I can't wait to see what Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and the rest of that team can do over the next decade and beyond. It would be phenomenal to see them play postseason baseball in 2012, and Strasburg has to be a part of that.

It's very risky, but the Nationals need to ride this out and pray that Strasburg can not only hold up this season, but over the next few years. Many times the overworked pitcher does not show the ill effects until five years down the road.

The Nationals are building a strong following in Washington, D.C., and they have a World Series championship team in waiting. Maybe not this year, but if this team stays together, it will contend for a championship very soon.

Don't ruin it for the fans in Washington or baseball fans across the country who deserve a treat like Strasburg, Harper and the young Nats.

Paul Jannace is the sports editor of the Wellsville (N.Y.) Daily Reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @pjscribe.