ATLANTA, GA - MAY 26: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 26, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson seemed at a loss for words when trying to explain Stephen Strasburg's outing on Saturday. "Stras for some reason didn't have control of his fastball," the manager said, "Or was afraid to throw it over. I even looked up there one time and he had more balls than strikes. Wasn't his day I guess. He's usually picking us up, but we picked him up today." In his 10th start of 2012, Strasburg threw 95 pitches in just 5.0 innings, and he allowed six hits, four walks and four runs, all earned, leaving the game after Dan Uggla (who's now 6 for 9 with a double and two home runs vs Strasburg) hit a two-run home run to tie it at 4-4 after five. Strasburg was still the pitcher of record when the Nationals took the lead in the top of the sixth, however, so he earned his fifth win of the year courtesy of Chad Tracy's RBI double to left-center.
Unfortunately for Tracy, the 32-year-old bench bat pulled up lame as he rounded first with what the Nats' skipper told reporters after the game the team hoped was just the popping of some scar tissue from surgery Tracy had a while back. "Obviously he's in some pain," Johnson said, "He thinks that maybe it was that surgery he had a couple of years ago, a high groin thing that they did, and he's hopeful that he just popped some scar tissue. And we also talked to his doctor and he said that he would wait a couple days and see if that is [in fact] what happened. He's so valuable I hate to overreact and make a roster move when maybe he's going to be alright in two or three days."
Tracy later told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore that it was a "sports hernia" surgery that he had in November, though he did confirm that the Nats are hoping it was in fact just scar tissue popping.
In another article last night, Strasburg assured the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore that in spite of all the reporters who say they've seen him "shaking out" his arm after pitches recently, he's not dealing with any sort of injury to his right arm. The 23-year-old starter said that he was merely shaking sweat off his hand between pitches. He also went on to say that he might have to stop doing that so reporters don't worry, and even joked that perhaps he should have the sweat glands removed from his hand so he wouldn't have to worry about it.
Though he too says there's no injury, Strasburg's manager continued to struggle to explain the pitcher's issues on the mound during the post game Q&A. "I wish I could say," Johnson said when asked why the pitcher looked so uncomfortable Saturday. "He didn't seem to have very good command with his fastball. His changeup, I mean at one time he threw four changeups in a row to the third baseman [Juan Francisco], so I just don't think he had a good feel for his fastball. I mean, he was throwing good and hard and whatever, but sometimes you get where you can't locate your main pitch. I've never seen it happen with [Strasburg], but there's nothing physically wrong with him. I think he ended up with  pitches and saved an inning, which may help us later on down the road."
• Note: Johnson's referring to Strasburg's "innings limit" in that last sentence, of course, here's the latest from those who doubt that the Nationals will actually shut the right-hander down early this season:
One opposing exec on #nats plan to shut down strasburg after IP (160?) limit: "I'll believe it when I see it."— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 27, 2012
Davey Johnson did offer one other theory as to what might be wrong with Strasburg at the end of the manager's post game press conference. "I've noticed, even all of our starters, and [Detwiler's] probably in the same thing. You can call it a 'tired arm' or something. You go pretty good and then at some point you get a little tired arm and then you bounce back and when you feel a little tired arm, you kind of lose a little command. All of our [starters], to a man, the pitch count has really gone up in the first five innings over their first six starts and the last three, I mean almost to a man, they've all had more problems. Gio [Gonzalez], [Edwin] Jackson, all of them have had problems, so hopefully it's just kind of part of the sine curve where they bounce back up."
• Note: Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP):
Davey on hi pitch counts:"Just part of the sine curve." Knew it was coming y(t) = A \cdot \sin(\omega t + \phi) Yeah, I know but ask Davey— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) May 27, 2012
• Reliever?: ESPN.com's Buster Olney started folks talking this morning when he Tweeted (@Buster_ESPN) the following:
The Nationals are actively seeking a veteran relief pitcher, and are dangling demoted starter John Lannan as possible trade bait.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 27, 2012
Mr. Olney didn't elaborate on what he's hearing about the Nationals' pursuit of a reliever in his column this morning, simpy repeating what he'd Tweeted instead, but with Brad Lidge working his way back and Drew Storen hopeful to return around the All-Star Break, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Sean Burnett pitching well at the back of the bullpen and Ross Detwiler yesterday demoted to the pen as well, not sure where another reliever fits into the picture?
Lannan, who's making $5M this year after losing his arbitration case with the Nats this past winter, probably isn't helping his own cause or the Nationals' attempts to deal him. Lannan had another rough outing at Triple-A Syracuse this week, allowing five runs on seven hits in 5.0 innings on Friday, leaving the 27-year-old left-hander with a 6.12 ERA, 5.38 FIP, 19 walks (3.70 BB/9) and 26 K's (5.17 K/9) in nine starts and 50.0 IP since he was sent down at the end of Spring Training.