Washington Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg told reporters this afternoon that the right elbow issue (soreness) that landed him on the 15-Day DL was not a serious issue.
Strasburg, 28, explained today that he had lost some range of motion over the last few weeks and he and the Nationals hoped the time off would help him to be ready for the stretch run.
Over his last seven starts, Strasburg was (3-4) — after a (12-0) first half and (13-0) start to the season — with a 6.28 ERA, 3.07 FIP and a .256/.317/.458 line against in 38 ⅔ IP after he put up a 2.62 ERA, 2.94 FIP and a .199/.264/.320 line against in 106 ⅔ IP before the Break.
Things got really bad in the last three starts, with Strasburg (0-3) with 24 hits and 19 earned runs allowed in 11 ⅔ innings pitched (14.66 ERA), over which opposing hitters put up a .414/.462/.776 line against him.
Rizzo said they've been "monitoring" Strasburg for awhile, so this wasn't out of blue. No new MRI, but he had one in April that was clean.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) August 22, 2016
So was the elbow issue behind those struggles?
“He said he didn’t think it played into it, to tell you the truth, according to him,” Dusty Baker told reporters before tonight’s game, “... but how much, you know, was he telling us too at the same time? Because he wanted to pitch.”
Baker said that once Strasburg came to them to talk about his elbow, the choice wasn’t really his to make.
“He came in and he said, “Hey, man, my elbow is a bit stiff,’ and then we said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to take care of it and see what’s wrong.’
“He said, ‘But I can pitch,’ and I said, ‘No. Let’s go check it out because we’ve got a long way to go.’ And I told him we hadn’t won anything yet, but we’ve got to look at the big picture on this. He’s going to be around for a long time and hopefully he’ll be good in September and hopefully October. And this is what I had to convince him, that the risk isn’t worth the gain right now.”
If it was September or October, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters as quoted by MASN beat writer Mark Zuckerman, when he talked about Strasburg landing on the DL this afternoon in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the right-hander would likely pitch.
Rizzo described the issue as "some routine inflammation and soreness" and said he thought, “...if we were later in the season and we had to have him pitch, he could pitch for us, and he would pitch for us.”
Mike Rizzo believes Strasburg's elbow is structurally sound, in part based on the MRI he had before he signed his extension in May.— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) August 22, 2016
Since it’s not September/October, however, Baker explained, the Nationals chose a cautious approach.
“He just said he had stiffness and he had a problem getting his normal range of motion back,” Baker explained.
“It was taking longer and longer to feel like itself. And so when he came to us we made the decision for him. Because he wanted to pitch, but we had to do what was right for him.”
Source: Strasburg elbow issue is not structural. #Nationals being pro-active with DL stint to get right for stretch/playoffs.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 22, 2016
“We thought that it would be better for us to put him on the DL, and I can tell you, he fought it, but he didn’t really have much choice.”
Baker said after first learning of the issue on Saturday, he had to tell Strasburg to put down a ball the right-hander was playing around with on Sunday just to see what he could do.
“He wants to pitch,” Baker said. “He knows how badly we need him, but like I explained to him, it’s not hero time... yet.”