Though both expressed frustration with the fact that a camera in Busch Stadium captured Stephen Strasburg in a tunnel off the visitor’s dugout in St. Louis massaging his own right shoulder in-between innings of his start against the Cardinals this past week, neither Stras or Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez acknowledge any physical issues for the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick after what was a rough start on the road (4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 8 R, 7 ER).
Five days later, the Nationals placed the 32-year-old right-hander on the 10-Day Injured List (retroactive to 4/15) with right shoulder inflammation on Sunday morning.
“We shut him down, put him on the IL, he had to get an MRI on the shoulder, he’s got some inflammation on his shoulder, so we want to be smart,” Martinez explained before the Nats’ series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks in D.C.
“There’s going to be no timetable when he comes back, but hopefully we get him back soon.”
Strasburg went back to work after struggling against the Cardinals, getting started on his usual between-outings routine, and according to his manager that’s when the first sign of any sort physical issue came up.
“He went through his routine this week, he threw a bullpen, said he felt fine,” Martinez said.
“The next day he said he felt something wasn’t right, and that’s when we deemed that he probably should go and get it looked at and get an MRI.
“Other than that, till then, after the game, we talked to him after the game, he said he felt fine, so we went through his regular routine this whole week, and after his bullpen, which, he threw well, he said he didn’t feel right, so that was an indication that we needed to get him checked out.”
The diagnosis of inflammation in his right shoulder is, of course, unwelcome news for the right-hander, who was limited to two starts and five innings pitched last season by carpal tunnel neuritis, which eventually required surgery, and Strasburg, you may recall, had to have Tommy John surgery after he tore his UCL in 2010.
So the Nationals will take things slowly as they deal with the latest issue to crop up.
“We’ll see how long it takes,” Martinez said, “but there is going to be no timetable. When we get Stephen back we need to get him back right, so we have him for the rest of the year.”
Though, as he noted, he’s not a doctor, Martinez has seen plenty of MRIs in his time in the game, and he offered his take on what he saw on Strasburg’s latest.
“I’d like to say from what I’ve seen it doesn’t look bad, but I’m not a doctor,” the fourth-year manager said.
“The biggest thing is to get that inflammation out of there whether it’s small or whatever, just get it out of there and get him healthy.
“This guy, he’s a workhorse for us, so we need him back, but we need him healthy.”
The fact that he tossed six scoreless and looked sharp in his initial 2021 outing might have influenced the club’s thinking as they tried to assess what they saw from Strasburg in start No. 2.
“We all [saw] his last outing and it wasn’t great, we know that,” Martinez told reporters. “I kind of looked — as I normally do with these guys — his mechanics were off, we noticed that, we didn’t see anything, the trainers talked to him after the game, during the game, so like I said, he went through his whole routine this week, threw his bullpen and he looked good. Then the next day he came in and said he felt beat up and the shoulder felt tight, so we went and got him the MRI.”
Looking at the bigger picture, with all the innings Strasburg threw in 2019 on the way to the World Series title (and World Series MVP nod), the start-up-shut-down-start-up a year ago in Spring Training 1.0 and 2.0 and the 60-game COVID campaign, and the COVID issues this year which delayed the start of the 2021 season, it’s something they’re looking at as they go forward.
“It’s been a crazy start of the year, from the beginning, and we got to start looking at some of this stuff, and the possibilities of some of these things happening,” Martinez said.
“I can’t pinpoint anything,” he added. “I’m still trying to figure this out. I’ve been talking to our trainers about it. We ramped these guys, leaving Spring Training, and then we had our issues with the pandemic, then we had to stop everything, these guys didn’t throw, we had to reschedule them all.
“I don’t know if that necessarily had anything to do with anything.
“We knew coming in our concerns were a little bit with Joe Ross and Stephen not pitching at all [in 2020]. I thought eventually that we were going to have to give both him and Ross time, and I didn’t think it was going to be this early. Like I said, I hope that we can nip this in the bud as soon as possible and we get him back as soon as possible. We’ve got a whole year in front us, this is only the beginning, so we’ve got plenty of time.
“We just want to make sure that we get him right, because as you know, what he means to this ballclub, so we want to make sure we get him right.”