Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman spent the majority of the post game press conference Tuesday night responding to questions about the struggles of the Nationals' 22-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg had just completed his worst outing since his June 8th debut, getting knocked around Nationals Park by the Florida Marlins, who collected 6 hits, 2 walks and 4 ER in 4.1 IP...What was wrong with Strasburg?
Jim Riggleman: "I think he just didn't have command of his pitches. He was working behind hitters, didn't really get in sync with any of his pitches. It's a funny game of momentum, you know, he walked the second hitter, it's a check swing on [Logan] Morrison, once [Strasburg] didn't get that call, next thing you know he threw a couple more balls, he walked him and then [Dan] Uggla hit a ball real high on him, a pitch that not many people hit, but he got to it and hit it out and it was kind of downhill from there..."
Jim Riggleman on the cause of Stras' issues?: I think 'rust' is probably a good word. He just wasn't sharp. His velocity was good. The angles on his breaking pitches were good, but he just wasn't throwing them for strikes and it was just making for a long night for him. It's just one of those games that you're going to go through and he was trying to find it, he was battling through it, but he just couldn't find it tonight.
Are you concerned?: Jim Riggleman: "Concern would be only about health and I don't have any concern about that, he feels great, he feels strong. He threw all of his pitches, he didn't hesistate to throw any of his pitches. There was no concern in that respect. The Marlins got to him that's about all I can say."
Did he have control of fastball? Jim Riggleman: "No he didn't really have command of any of his pitches tonight and he was up, he threw a lot balls up there around neck high, and a couple of them were swung at, but unless you've got two strikes on a hitter it's really not doing much good up there. It just wasn't his night, as i said."
How long til he's sharp? Jim Riggleman: "I think he'll be better next time out. It's been 12 or 15 days since he warmed up for that game against Atlanta that we didn't let him start. The adrenaline was flowing that day to go out and pitch, and he just couldn't get loose. and so you go four-five days before that it's been about 19 days since he's been in a ballgame, so it's that kind of in-between area where you could find some rust and I think we did."
Jim Riggleman: "We've raised the bar very high for Stephen, and maybe unfairly, but I think he's going to be fine, he'll be better next time out."
So, Nats' Manager Jim Riggleman says, "[Strasburg's] velocity was good. The angles on his breaking pitches were good, but he just wasn't throwing them for strikes and it was just making for a long night for him." Velocity was there, but no control? Former DC GM Jim Bowden speculated on why that may have been the case Wednesday afternoon on his Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio Show, "Inside Pitch":
Jim Bowden: "A lot of times it's the command that goes, not the velocity. Because of the inflammation there, the release point isn't exactly the same, and you can't put it exactly where you want to put it, so Dan Uggla took him yard, we know what a great year that Dan's had, a tremendous offensive second baseman, but the reality is, as Hanley Ramirez said after the game, he just couldn't put the ball anywhere close to where he wanted to put it. It was a bad outing. Do you get concerned, no, but remember, the caution flag is up, not a red flag up, but there's a yellow flag up. We know what happened the 27th of July, we know he's been on the disabled list, if I'm Jim Riggleman and Mike Rizzo, I'm watching every pitch and every outing and I'm concerned. I've gotta watch his innings, I don't want this pitcher getting hurt, and you can't be afraid to shut a guy down if he's not right. So they're going to have watch him very closely. A disappointing start, read into it, no, probably not, probably it's just a factor that he hasn't been pitching every five days. It's probably just the fact that he was rusty because he's been on the disabled list and didn't get a rehab start in the minor leagues, so I wouldn't worry about it, but if you see two more starts like this one in a row, then at that point you probably need to at least make an adjustment."
Strasburg's struggles were synthesized for the general public on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption Wednesday afternoon, with hosts Michael Wilbon, whose history in Chicago and Washington, D.C. has him making the usual comparisons and Dan LeBatard discussing whether or not the Nats should be worried...
PTI Dan LeBatard and Michael Wilbon:
Wilbon: Washington rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg after not pitching for 22 days because of stiffness in his shoulder, returned to the mound last night and was promptly shelled for 5 doubles, a HR, 2 walks and 6 runs in 4.2 IP. The kid said afterward it was his first time out as a big leaguer where he thought he didn't have control of a single pitch. Dan, if you were running the Nationals would you shut Strasburg's season down right now?
LeBatard: Only if I know him to be hurt, Mike. Only if I know him to be hurt, Mike. Otherwise this is good. Get the growing pains out of the way, go ahead and reduce the expectations, because they're in a pretty unreasonable place right now. So the only, only circumstance in which I shut him down is not when he's struggling cause that kind of pain, growing pains are good, it's if he's got any kind of real pain, then of course I tell him nevermind just rest it."
Wilbon: Yeah, but the problem Danny is we don't know. I'm sure the Cubs probably thought they were doing that with Kerry Wood. I mean, where is it pain, and where does that stop and just regular baseball struggling begin. Same thing with Mark Prior, how much do you pitch through? What's an issue of toughness and what's the issue of pain. I think you can't see these things very clearly when you're talking about phenom pitchers and right arms are the most fragile things in baseball. I would send him out there again, with not even a pitch count and say, you know what kid. Go out there and give it everything you've got, we're going to monitor you inning by inning and see whether or not you're going to continue this experiment..."
• What should the Nationals do? The thought, at least as expressed by Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman before Tuesday's start was that Strasburg's time on the DL would allow the pitcher to go deeper into the season than had previously been planned, but it he comes back out in his next start and shows the same lack of control, do the Nationals shut him down? Is the honeymoon is officially over...?