Davey Martinez declined to discuss the unfortunate situation with Stephen Strasburg any further when he spoke to reporters following Washington’s 9-5 loss to Atlanta’s Braves in their series opener in Nationals Park on Monday.
Before the game, Martinez announced the 33-year-old starter, who’s worked his way back from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome to make his first start of the year back on June 9th in Miami, had suffered a setback during a between-starts bullpen. Before the team got results from the MRI he went for, the manager said, he didn’t have much to add.
“You know what, we’ll talk about Stephen tomorrow, if that’s okay,” he said. “And I’ll know a lot more tomorrow about Stephen.”
The news wasn’t good when Martinez finally delivered it on Tuesday afternoon.
“Stephen has a stress reaction in his second and third rib,” Martinez told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, twenty-four hours after his initial announcement on Strasburg.
“Like I’ve said before, there’s so many unknowns about this surgery and what can happen, and this is part of it, so it is related. We’re at a point now where, honestly, Stephen has put all the work in, he’s done everything that he needed to do, and it’s just something with this surgery, you don’t know where it’s going to go. I’ve seen a lot of guys go through this and not come out of this good right away. I’ve seen guys come out of it where they’re able to pitch very well. There’s no timeline for Stephen. He’s going to go see another specialist, and then we’ll know more.”
For now, the next step is fairly simple. All Strasburg can do is rest and allow himself to heal up.
“So now it’s just basically rest,” Martinez said.
“We got to let this calm down a little bit, like I said, he is going to go this week to see a specialist, and then we’ll know more by — hopefully, by the end of the week.”
Martinez didn’t want to entertain worst-case scenarios with Strasburg, who is right now in the third year of the 7-year/$245M deal he signed after helping the club win it all in 2019, and he has made just eight starts in the majors in the last three seasons while dealing with an assortment of injuries.
“Honestly, I don’t really want to look at it that way,” Martinez said.
“I want to look at it as if he worked really hard to come back and he was able to pitch again in the big leagues, right? Even though it’s one start. So let’s see what happens after this little stint here, and see if we can get him back. But like I said, man, we all hurt for him because he worked his butt off to get back and try to help us, and he went out there, and we were so excited that he was out there. It was something else to see him out there pitching again, so I just hope and pray that he can come back, who knows when. Like I said, there’s no timetable, but he can come back and pitch again for us.”
Welcome Back Stephen Strasburg...and his filthy changeup. pic.twitter.com/CBhXKZj2zM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 9, 2022
“For me,” Martinez, the eternal optimist, added, “I’m going to be — as I always am — [optimistic] that he’s going to pitch again. And I hope that that’s the case.”
How is Strasburg, who had surgery for carpal tunnel neuritis end his season in 2020, before thoracic outlet syndrome shut him down last summer, handling the latest bad news?
“I haven’t seen him today, I haven’t talked to him. I know yesterday he was a bit down,” the manager said. “As you know Stephen, he doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion, but I talked to him briefly yesterday, but he’s a bit down. He wants to figure this out. He desperately wants to figure this out and see what’s going to happen and what’s going to transpire next. For right now, and I explained this to him, ‘Hey, right now it’s just about taking care of today. That’s all you can do.”
The frustration, he reiterated, is with the fact that Strasburg fought to get all the way back, without any issues, only to have something come up following just the one start back, and now there are even more questions than before about how his future will play out.
More Stephen Strasburg Changeups. pic.twitter.com/ruPITbYtw9— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 9, 2022
“This is something that — he felt really good,” Martinez said, when asked if it was a gradual thing, or a single incident which caused the issue.
“This is why he was able to build up, he did everything he needed to do to get back here, and then, like I said, after his bullpen the next day he said he didn’t feel right, and that’s the first time we said, ‘Well, just take it easy, let’s see how you feel the next day,’ and he said he didn’t feel right, so we decided to go get him an MRI. As we said all along, we were going to be extremely careful from Spring Training on, but he was coming along, and he was doing well, and he felt good, and now all of a sudden here we are again.
“I feel for him, I really do. But I hope that he’ll be back — hopefully sooner than later, but regardless of time, that he’s back and he’s helping us win games.”