Initial reports from Chicago’s Wrigley Field on Tuesday said the Washington Nationals wanted to turn to Stephen Strasburg for Game 4 of the NLDS matchup with the Cubs after rain postponed the game last night and set the 29-year-old right-hander up to start on regular rest this afternoon.
Strasburg declined, however, at least according to the reports, telling the team he was under the weather, so the Nationals decided to stick with Tanner Roark, who was going to start the game on Tuesday.
“The Nationals were all set to pitch him... only for Strasburg to decline,” wrote Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, setting off a media firestorm that continued up until this afternoon when the Nationals announced that Strasburg recovered to the point that he could pitch.
As for the initial report that Strasburg declined the opportunity initially? And what changed his mind?
Did pressure play a role after the reaction when he wasn’t going to go?
“The statement was inaccurate,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters this afternoon in advance of Game 4. “Which many, many statements that have been about this subject have been inaccurate. If you're alluding to the fact that -- did the media pressure him into starting this; I don't think Stephen Strasburg cares about what the media thinks about him or says about him. He wanted the ball in this game because he wants to win this game and he thinks he's our best option. And he's an ultra-competitor and he feels this gives us a chance to win.”
The reporter noted that he’d asked if Strasburg felt pressure from teammates as opposed to the media.
“No, he felt obligated -- when he felt as good as he feels today, he felt much more like himself. He felt that he should pitch this game,” Rizzo said.
“We didn't put that pressure on him,” Dusty Baker said when asked a variation of the same question, “and I don't think that he would succumb to the pressure from the public or the media or anybody. You know, he's a grown man. He made that decision on his own and he wanted to pitch, and he was very adamant about he wanted to pitch and how much better he was feeling.
“So no, he wasn't pressured at all by -- that I know of.”
How did Strasburg let his skipper know he wanted to go?
“He just said, ‘I'm feeling a whole lot better,’ and, ‘I want the ball.’ That was kind of the gist of the conversation,” Baker explained.
What changed overnight? Rizzo actually provided a detailed report of what was wrong and what happened in the lead-up to tonight’s game.
“So after his start on Friday,” Rizzo began, “a couple days afterwards, he started feeling flu-like symptoms and that continued for the next couple of days: Fever, chills, acute sinusitis. And when he threw his bullpen Monday, he was feeling really bad. He had no endurance. He was really weak and it was -- just wasn't feeling great.
“You know, he battled through it. We aggressively -- he saw our doctors and they aggressively put him on an antibiotic regimen, anti-inflammatories, and fluid IVs. He's taken several IVs the last couple of days, last night, and again today.
“At the time of the rainout Tuesday when we were going to announce our starter for the rain game, we went to Stras and he said, he told me he wanted to take the ball. He said, I'll give you everything I've got, but he doesn't know how much he has.
“We felt at that time it wasn't enough when we have a guy like Tanner Roark there that's able to start. Tanner was prepared. It was his day to start, and we felt very, very comfortable giving him the ball in Game 4.
“Then as of today, we switched Stras's antibiotics, gave him a higher dose, IV fluids throughout the evening, and this morning he felt much more like Stephen Strasburg. So he came into the clubhouse and went to the manager's office and said that, ‘I want to start this game.’”
“The fact that he was much more like the real Stephen Strasburg, we felt that that Stephen Strasburg gave us a much better chance to win Game 4. And that's it.”
Got it? Thankfully that’s all over with now, and we can all move on to seeing if the Nationals can avoid elimination with their best starting option on the mound...