Davey Johnson didn't like what he saw from his starter, Stephen Strasburg, in an April 29th start against the Atlanta Braves. The then-24-year-old right-hander, who turned 25 in July, gave up six hits, four walks and two earned runs while throwing 93 pitches in six innings of a 3-2 loss to the Nationals' NL East rivals.
"I was a little concerned about Strasburg," Washington's manager explained. "He always has a tendency to shake his right arm -- and him being wild and whatever, I talked to [pitching coach Steve McCatty], 'Have you talked to him? Because he doesn't look right to me?'" Strasburg dismissed the idea that shaking his arm was a sign of any problem.
"You just try [to] stay loose and stuff," Strasburg told reporters. "Look at any pitcher, it's not like they're standing out there like robots. So, you know, everybody's going to be moving around trying to stay loose."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo later told MASN's Julie Alexander that it was just irritation in Strasburg's forearm which his manager said was caused by an electrical impulse machine. "He had a little irritation on the posterior side of his forearm," the General Manager explained, "the opposite side of the ulnar nerve and the Tommy John ligament, so he's fine and he's going to prepare for his next start and pitch Saturday against Pittsburgh."
Strasburg made his next start against the Pirates and five more after that in May, posting a 1.95 ERA, nine walks and 37 Ks in 37 IP over which he held opposing hitters to a .200/.273/.304 line, but the last start of the month was a two inning outing against Atlanta on the road in Turner Field in which a lat strain which had bothered him as he warmed up was visibly affecting the pitcher.
"He was complaining of discomfort warming up," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "and it was more severe than it was the last time out. He's a gamer. He wanted to continue. But something like that -- and I saw him wincing every [throw] he made -- and even [catcher Kurt] Suzuki gave the sign, you know, like, 'It's not real good.'" The main concern, he explained, was that the right-hander would put more stress on his arm. What was diagnosed as a right lat strain ended up landing Strasburg on the DL.
The Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick returned to the mound on June 16th and made 16 straight starts over which he was (4-4) with a 3.29 ERA, 31 walks (2.92 BB/9) and 108 Ks (10.16 K/9) in 95 2/3 IP in which opposing hitters had a .194/.272/.290 line.
Before a scheduled start on September 13th, however, Strasburg was scratched with what Davey Johnson told reporters including MLB.com's Tom Schad was "tightness" in, "... the soft tissue of Strasburg's arm, not the surgically-repaired ligament in his elbow."
The doctors told Johnson the injury was a non-issue, and Steve McCatty lamented that with all the attention paid to Strasburg after Tommy John surgery and his innings limit in 2012, the focus would once again be on the pitcher's health.
"'It's unfortunate that it's him because now it becomes, 'Oh my God, we landed on the moon,'" McCatty told MLB.com's Mr. Schad. "So, that's what it was. He's got some irritation."
The right-hander was expected to miss just one start, but was scratched again when his next turn in the rotation came around as well. Strasburg returned after two weeks off and made two more starts for 30 total on the year.
The Nationals' 25-year-old starter's fourth MLB season ended with Strasburg (8-9) with a 3.00 ERA, a 3.21 FIP, 56 walks (2.75 BB/9) and 191 Ks (93.9 K/9) in 183 IP over which he was worth +3.2 fWAR.
According to a report from the Nationals this afternoon, the Nats' starter had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. LA Dodgers' team physician Neal ElAttrache performed the procedure on Friday according to the Washington Post's report on the surgery.
The right-handed starter is expected to start his throwing program again in four to six weeks. The pitcher and his pitching coach can at least take some solace in the fact that after a few injuries, two surgeries and a few seasons in which the spotlight has shifted to several other "next big things" around the league there's very little over-the-top coverage of the latest revelations about another issue with the right-hander's right elbow just four years into his major league career.
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