SEPT. 8: Nationals manager Dusty Baker told reporters last night, including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, that Strasburg felt a “pinch in the back of his elbow” and will undergo an MRI to evaluate the damage today. While the news is a gut punch for Nationals fans who were relieved when Strasburg’s recent DL stint proved to be minimal, Baker insisted that Strasburg didn’t rush back and wasn’t trying to pitch through something when further rest was required.
“He wasn’t trying to be a hero,” said Baker (via Janes). “He said that he felt fine. But a lot of times you really don’t know until you get into action. … We thought everything was fine because [Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos] said he was throwing the heck out of the ball. He said his changeup was outstanding, and he had good command. And usually if something’s wrong, you don’t have command. So we’re hoping that it’s something minor, but again we’ll find out more tomorrow.”
SEPT. 7: In his first start back from the disabled list due to elbow soreness, Stephen Strasburg exited in the contest after throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Strasburg winced after his second-to-last pitch (as MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman tweets) and was visited by pitching coach Mike Maddux and Nationals trainer Paul Lessard before leaving the mound and being replaced by left-hander Sean Burnett.
Following Strasburg’s initial placement on the disabled list, it was reported that his DL stint was precautionary and that the 28-year-old would have continued pitching were the postseason already at hand. He returned in just over the minimum 15 days and looked sharp tonight in his first outing prior to his exit. In 2 1/3 innings, he held the Braves scoreless on a pair of hits with no walks and four strikeouts, running his fastball up to 97 mph along the way.
It’s impossible to know how long tonight’s apparent injury will sideline Strasburg, if at all, just yet. The Nationals’ significant lead on the NL East (eight games) should ensure that they take home the division title with or without Strasburg, but his absence from the postseason rotation would be notable. Both Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark would figure to be locks, but left-hander Gio Gonzalez has struggled considerably after a dominant April, while righty Joe Ross is on the disabled list. Rookies A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, meanwhile each lack experience, and the latter two have struggled to ERAs north of 5.00 in their first big league seasons.
Certainly, the Nationals organization and fans alike are holding their collective breaths as they await further evaluation. Strasburg inked a seven-year, $175MM contract extension earlier this season, surprising many with his decision to pass on the option to explore free agency at season’s end. That massive extension begins next season.