Unfortunately for Stephen Strasburg and the strength of the Washington Nationals’ rotation, the 32-year-old right-hander suffered another setback as he’s working to return from a neck strain which landed him on the Injured List for the second time in 2021 back on June 2nd. It sounds like the team is trying to reset after he felt discomfort after throwing for the second time in a few weeks.
“Strasburg, once again, he had an uncomfortable feeling in his neck,” Davey Martinez said in a Zoom call with reporters before last night’s series opener with Baltimore’s Orioles in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
“So we backed him down again,” Martinez explained, “and now we’re going to have to figure something else out for him. I know they’re going to look at some different options, see if we can find another specialist for him to go see. But as of right now, this continues to happen to him, so we need to figure something else out for him. It’s unfortunate, I know he’s trying really hard to get back on that mound and continue to come back, but like I said before, I want him back fully healthy, so we’re going to weigh all options here, but as of right now we kind of backed him down a little bit, and then we’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
It’s just the latest in a string of injury issues which have kept Strasburg off of the mound for most of past two seasons, following a deep run into the postseason, and World Series MVP nod in 2019.
After building up over the last few months once the neck strain sent him to the IL, the right-hander is shut down again.
He experienced discomfort in his neck after a recent bullpen, but felt good enough while he was long-tossing to try to ramp it up again, but then the neck acted up once more.
“We’ve hit this hurdle before,” Martinez reiterated, “and he’s had this discomfort before, so he had it again, so it doesn’t bother him — he goes out and throws long-toss and stuff and he feels okay, when he throws a bullpen it irritates him some, so we need to figure that out.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in June that it was the same issue that led to a stint on the Injured List for the 2009 No. 1 overall pick in 2018.
“It’s the same thing he had in 2018 where he had the nerve from his neck — that goes down to his shoulder and arm — was irritated,” Rizzo [said].
“He has seen Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache out in L.A. to get a diagnosis. We’ve got that. We’re sending him to a specialist in Dallas.
“So he’s in the midst of... we’re getting information gathering, trying to figure out how to stop this thing so it doesn’t keep reoccurring.”
They’re still searching for answers.
“We got to figure out what really is causing this, like I said, he can go out and two days or three days, play long-toss, and get himself ready to throw again, and what’s to say that it doesn’t happen again to him,” Martinez said.
“We’ve been through this process a few times already, and it just happens to keep coming back, it keeps getting irritated, so we need to figure out what’s next for him medically.
“I know he’s talked to our trainers, they’re looking and weighing options, looking at different physicians and medical staff and see if we can pinpoint what’s going on.”
The discomfort that returned this time, the skipper said, was the same as what set the righty back earlier this month.
“It’s still the same kind of pain,” Martinez confirmed.
“So, like I said, after talking to him, he’s frustrated, because he’s worked so hard. So I told him, I said, ‘Look, we’ve got to figure out what it is and then we’ll go from there. We’ve been here before, it’s been a bumpy road for you, and I know you want to come back and pitch,’ I said. So the biggest thing is he has to stay positive, and he’s got to understand that it’s unfortunate, but as I always tell him, I’d love to have him back, but when I get him back, I want him to be healthy.”
Have the Nationals altered his mechanics as they’ve tried to figure out what it is that’s causing the issue to keep coming up? Asked about that recently, Martinez noted that they have been filming the bullpens and long-toss/throwing sessions to see if there’s anything different which could be causing the issue, but as of now they don’t know.
“Him and [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey have been diligent on his mechanics,” Martinez said.
“I know the last few times he threw — and I can say I watched him throw the last couple bullpens, and the ball was coming out fine, and he looked good. He was staying in his legs a little bit better, I know they talked about him staying a little bit taller, and he did that, and then, like I said, the next day he comes back and his neck area, his trap area, is sore. We have to figure out why that is.”