Nothing looked right for Stephen Strasburg on the mound on Tuesday night in Atlanta, and his manager, Davey Martinez, and team trainer Paul Lessard, came out to check on him just one batter into the outing against the Braves.
Strasburg stayed in, hit for himself in the second, and came back out in the bottom of the inning, but still didn’t look right and another walk and one out in, he exited the game after discussing things with Martinez and Lessard in a second mound visit.
He threw 30 pitches (14 strikes) in 1 1⁄3 innings pitched in what ended up an 11-6 win for the Nationals.
Strasburg declined to speak with reporters after the game, but Martinez shared what info they had at that point.
“His trap was getting tight, so he’s going to get an MRI tomorrow,” the manager explained when asked about Strasburg’s early exit.
“He tried to pitch through it, and I told Paul [Lessard], I said, ‘I don’t want to see him going through it. Let’s get him out and see what’s wrong with him,’ and we’ll have to figure it out. But he couldn’t get it loose, tried to get it loose, couldn’t get loose.”
Strasburg, 32, made just two starts in 2020, before an issue with carpal tunnel neuritis shut him down. He underwent surgery last summer, and returned to the mound this past spring, but two starts into the 2021 campaign, he landed on the 10-Day IL with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Returning after a month off, the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick made two starts before this setback.
His manager said there wasn’t any sign of an issue this time around until he got on the hill in Atlanta.
“It was out when he got out to the mound and — the intensity, as we all know, once a hitter steps in that box the intensity builds up, you don’t feel that intensity in the bullpen really, you’re just trying to get ready, but once a hitter steps in there you’re fired up and here we go and we could see him, he came out and the velo wasn’t quite there and he started yanking balls again, and I thought, ‘Something doesn’t look right.’ Because he doesn’t walk a guy the way he walked him, and then he threw a couple breaking balls for strikes, I went out there though, and then he got out of the inning and he came in and said, “I tightened up a little bit. But I want to go back out, I want to see what happens,’ and we sent him back out and I just watched him and it didn’t get any better, so I made the decision to go get him.”
Between the first and second, Strasburg and the team’s trainers tried to get the lat loosened up, but it didn’t work.
“They were working on it trying to loosen it up and like I said, it just didn’t get any better,” Martinez said.
Strasburg tried to work through it, and talk his way into staying in the game, but Martinez wasn’t having it.
“I was watching him and he kept moving his neck, so we went out there and he said he just feel stiff and he wanted to see if he could pitch through it. And we gave him an opportunity but he came out the second inning and it just didn’t look right to me, and his velo was down, and I got to be smart and figure out what’s going on with him. So, we’ll see tomorrow, like I said, he’ll have an MRI sometime tomorrow and we’ll see what’s going on.”
His outing ended after a line drive back to the mound, but he didn’t get hurt on the play, it was just the way he looked overall that had his manager concerned.
“His velo never got back, and he was still moving his neck and head around, and the line drive was hit back at him and at that point I said, this is not fair to him, it’s not. So, let’s go get him.
“He waved us off but I told him, I said, ‘We got to be smart, Stephen. We got to see what’s going on, and hopefully you come back soon.’
“I always say it, but there’s still a lot of baseball, but we need him healthy.”