Man, it’s only been three days in the 2020 MLB season, and the hits keep coming for the Washington Nationals. First it was Juan Soto, who tested positive for COVID-19, and then Tres Barrera tested positive for a PED, and was suspended for 80 games, and now there, apparently, is a nerve issues with Stephen Strasburg’s right wrist/thumb.
Strasburg was scratched from tonight’s planned outing against the New York Yankees with what manager Davey Martinez told reporters was, “a nerve issue with his right hand.”
“We had to change starting pitchers today,” Martinez said as he started his pregame press conference with reporters. “Stephen Strasburg is out. He had a nerve issue with his right hand. He had a hydrodissection injection. So he’s going to be out, and hopefully this is a day-to-day thing. We wanted to be cautious, so [Erick] Fedde will start today.”
It’s apparently an issue Strasburg has been trying to deal with over the last few weeks.
“He felt something his last start against Baltimore,” Martinez explained, “He said he was a little irritated, but didn’t really — and then over this past few days it really was bothering him.
“So, like I said, to be cautious, he didn’t feel any better, they went ahead and gave him the shot, and hopefully in a day or two, hopefully he’ll be okay, but only time will tell.”
“It’s something that kind of just — didn’t really know what was going on,” Strasburg said when he took questions from the media on a Zoom call after the announcement.
“It started out probably at like the end of the first week in camp,” the 32-year-old starter explained. “I was waking up in the middle of the night and my hand was asleep, kept falling asleep, and I was getting these feelings, and it wasn’t really bothering me throwing, and it seemed like once we started to try to ramp up and stuff the symptoms seemed to increase.
“It really is something the last two intrasquad games or whatever I was feeling it pretty regularly, and just something you try to throw through, and after I got out of the last start, issues just kind of kept persisting. I saw that there was nerve impingement in my wrist, got a cortisone shot to hopefully create some more space in there to let it calm down and get back to feeling normal.”
Strasburg finished the 2019 regular season (18-6) with a 3.32 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, 56 walks, 251 strikeouts, and a .210/.271/.349 line against in 33 starts and 209 IP, then was named the World Series MVP after going (5-0) with a 1.98 ERA, four walks, 47 Ks, and a .221/.239/.368 line against over six games, five starts, and 36 1⁄3 innings pitched in the postseason.
He briefly tested the free agent market this winter after opting out of his extension with the team, before returning to the Nationals on a 7-year/$245M deal.
Though he’s had numerous injury issues in the past, Martinez said they didn’t think this was related to any prior problems.
“It’s all in his wrist to his thumb,” Martinez said. “So, his forearm is good, everything else is good, so like I said, hopefully with this injection he starts feeling better and he can resume throwing here as soon as possible.”
“That was the thing,” Strasburg added, “... my arm felt pretty good. You kind of anticipate going into trying to ramp up very quickly after throwing into a net for four months, you know you’re going to be dealing with some things, but it got to the point where I didn’t have the same feeling in my hand, holding the ball, and it was affecting my ability to command the baseball the way I’m accustomed to. So it was something that I feel like if I take some time now to get that feeling back to normal, I can be back out there much sooner instead of just trying to gut it out at this point.”
Strasburg mentioned the quick, three-week ramp-up to the 2020 campaign a couple times, and said it is clearly not an ideal way to get started after three-plus months off when Spring Training ended in mid-March due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Yeah, I think you can sit here and say that’s pretty good, you’ve got a pretty good idea that that contributed to it,” he explained, “but everybody else is going through the same things, and things I can’t control is trying to stay ready and obviously, different players had different surroundings and were able to prepare in different ways. I did the best with what I was able to do. I tried to power through it and unfortunately it didn’t get any better so it’s something to learn from, but at the same time I’d like to think that moving forward we’re not going to be required to prepare for a season the way we have this year.”
As much as he wanted to be available for his first outing of the season, Strasburg said he made a decision to get the shot now and wait until he’s past the issue.
“To be frank, this season is kind of a mess to begin with,” Strasburg said, “so I got to think big picture here, and it’s my career, and I know in the long run it’s important to try to make as many starts as you can, and by putting yourself in a compromising position now, I don’t really know if it’s necessarily like the best way of moving forward, so it is what it is, but I’m pretty optimistic that it won’t keep me out very long.”