If you didn’t read Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty’s feature story on Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg when it was published, you really should go read it right now.
In the article by the WaPost’s Nationals beat writer, he talks about the 34-year-old, ‘09 No. 1 overall pick and ‘19 World Series MVP confronting his own baseball mortality, and what the future holds after multiple surgeries in the last few seasons (for carpal tunnel neuritis and a another procedure for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome), which have limited him to eight starts in the last three seasons and just 31 1⁄3 IP on the mound in the majors since 2019:
“Every time I’ve had an injury, I felt like I was going to be the best there is coming back,” Strasburg, 34, told The Washington Post this week. “… This is the one that’s still definitely a big question mark.
“I realize the clock is ticking. It’s been almost three years since I’ve been able to pitch competitively, and it’s not like I’m getting younger.”
“I realize the clock is ticking. It’s been almost three years since I’ve been able to pitch competitively, and it’s not like I’m getting younger.”— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) September 16, 2022
Stephen Strasburg opens up about all his injuries, his tough summer and his unknown future: https://t.co/wnV3IAydP9
He’s also dealt with the death of his father while he was recovering from the injury issues, so it’s been a rough few years for the Nats’ starter, who’s still working to get back to being part of the rotation again. Will he be able to make it back? Will he be anything close to the pitcher he was after all this time off?
The article ends with Strasburg discussing where he finds himself at this point:
“Time has gone so, so fast,” he said. “A lot of guys that you played with have moved on and they’re in the next chapter of their lives.
“It’s crazy to think about how short baseball careers can be.”
In his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if it’s as bleak as it seemed reading the article, and if anything the club gets from Strasburg going forward, considering his injury history, is a bonus?
“I see Stras every day,” Rizzo told the Junkies, “... and I see him working out in the clubhouse and stuff. He’s upbeat and positive, and I’m going to be too. We’ll see what happens, there’s a lot of wear and tear on that body, and that arm, and this last surgery he had is something that’s unpredictable and we haven’t seen a lot of in the industry. But I hope for the best, and we’ll see where Stras is this winter, and we’ll keep tabs on him, and hopefully he can come back and help the franchise.”
How is Strasburg dealing with this all, from the injuries themselves, to not being able to go out there and compete?
“Like I said, I’ve seen him in the clubhouse and he’s interacting with his teammates and he’s upbeat,” Rizzo added, “and always saying hi to me and interacting with the coaches and the players.
“So I think that emotionally he’s fine – he’s getting over the loss of his dad, which, if you’ve gone through that, we know how difficult that is. But I think he’s adjusting to that also.”
Joey Meneses went 0 for 7 in the final two games of the Nationals’ last homestand, but he bounced back in the series opener with the Braves, going 4 for 4 with four singles, and he followed that up with a 1 for 4 night in the second of back-to-back losses in Atlanta, giving him, “... 55 hits through his first 42 games,” in the majors, which, the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes on Wednesday, “... are the most by any rookie through his first 42 games in franchise history (MON/WSH).”
Meneses finished the second of three in Truist Park with a .324/.357/.547 line, 11 doubles, nine homers, 23 RBIs, nine walks, and 26 runs scored on the year, and he had 16 multi-hit efforts over his first 42 games in the majors as a 30-year-old rookie.
He’s made quite the impression late this season, since he was called up to make his big league debut on August 2nd, after 10 seasons in the minors and playing internationally.
“Joey put his time in the minor leagues, figured some things out, and he’s making the best of an opportunity here,” manager Davey Martinez said after Meneses’s 4-hit game against the Braves.
In the series finale in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, Meneses singled the first time up, but was stranded, then he grounded out the second time up, and the Braves walked him intentionally with runners on second and third and two out in the fifth, then retired Luke Voit to end the threat, but they decided they’d pitch to him with one on and one out in the seventh, with a 2-1 lead, and Meneses made them pay, hitting a two-run shot 420 feet out to the second deck in left field in Truist Park, for a go-ahead home run, 3-2 Nats, and his 10th long ball of 2022.
It was the second IBB in two days for Meneses, who came up with runners on second and third with one out in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, with Voit flying out to center field with the bases loaded. The fact that opposing teams are walking the Nats’ slugger to avoid getting beaten by him? And the fact that they did pitch to him and he beat them?
“It’s awesome, right?,” Martinez said after the salvage job in the series finale.
“In a big moment like that all of a sudden they’ve got to pitch to you and he comes through, so like I said, since he’s been here, and obviously all year — I think that’s his 30th home run for the year [between Triple-A and the majors]. But I love watching him play. I love watching him hit, and it was a big HR today.”
“He threw a pitch and it tightened up on him,” Davey Martinez said of back spasms which ended Patrick Corbin’s start on Tuesday, after the left-hander’s 12th pitch of the night.
Corbin was obviously uncomfortable on the mound, he stepped off it, tried to stretch, but could not continue.
“We watched him,” Martinez explained.
“He started trying to stretch. We went out there and he said it just cramped up on him. He couldn’t get loose.
“He tried to get back on the mound, as he was going back on the mound, he said he couldn’t get loose, so the smart thing to do is just get him out of there.”
“If I could have pitched I would have,” the 33-year-old lefty told reporters in Atlanta, after the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Braves in Truist Park.
“Never want to put the bullpen in a situation like that, so I tried to wait as long as I could to see if it would [loosen up], but it just wasn’t going away. I don’t think it will be too serious, but it was something that I wasn’t going to be able to throw, I think, just need to give it a couple days and hopefully it responds well.”
“Right now, he got examined, it’s back spasms, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Martinez said in his post game press conference.
Corbin too said the issue came up on that 12th pitch.
“Just one pitch, it’s in a spot right in the middle of my back on the lower side of it, but yeah, nothing [beforehand], just kind of strange how that happened on one pitch, the last pitch I threw, and was kind of just sitting around for a little bit to see if it went away.
“But it continued to be there.”
Martinez updated reporters on Corbin’s condition after the series finale in Atlanta.
“He’s still a little sore today,” he said. “So we’re going to keep working on him and hopefully he’ll get better here in a couple days.”
With two down in the sixth inning on Tuesday night, Braves’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud sliced a line drive to the right of center field, but Victor Robles was on it, getting a good read, and a good first step and running it down for a sliding snowcone catch which provided manager Davey Martinez with yet another example of what the 25-year-old outfielder brings to the field.
“I think this kid could be a Gold Glove winner,” Martinez said after the game, when asked about the catch.
“And you see why, but I always said the kid does the little things right and he could play defense with anybody, so it was a heck of a catch.”
Robles, who has a .226/.281/.312 line overall this season, has put up a solid, .280/.310/.480 line this month (after Tuesday’s game), with hits in 7 of the 10 games he’d appeared in the month of September.
What’s been working for Robles (who did miss time with a neck issue earlier this month) at the plate?
What has he been doing right?
“Stay on top of the ball, hit line drives,” Martinez said, “and, you know, lay down the bunts like he did and get on base. That’s who he is.”
“So, if he continues to do that he’s going to help us.”
The Nationals know Robles can give them solid defense in center, but it’s been the offense (and mental errors in the outfield and on the basepaths) which have been an issue over the last few seasons.
“With Robles it’s just about doing the little things,” Martinez said. “We know what he can do out in the field, but he’s got to contribute with the bat as well and get on base for us.”