Davey Martinez talked excitedly in his first press conference of Spring Training yesterday, about the young, healthy starters in camp in West Palm Beach, FL preparing for the 2023 campaign on the first day of the new season. But it quickly turned a bit gloomy.
The change in mood came when the discussion turned from MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, Cade Cavalli and the young arms assembled at FITTEAM Ballpark to one of the veterans on the Nationals’ roster, Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg, 34, who helped Washington win the first World Series by a D.C.-based ballclub since 1924 way back in 2019, then signed a seven-year/$245M free agent deal after briefly testing free agency the following winter, has taken the mound for just eight starts and has thrown just 31 1⁄3 innings in the majors over the last three seasons, while he has dealt with a variety of injuries, most recently surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
This winter, Strasburg was rehabbing after suffering a setback following a few minor league outings and one big league start last season as he tried to work his way back.
Once he got back on the mound this winter, however, the issues cropped up again, and the Nats’ right-hander is now shut down, and back home in the nation’s capital.
“If anybody worked hard,” Martinez began, before pausing. “Stephen worked his butt off, I mean he really did, this whole winter. He got to the point where he was throwing bullpens and he had a minor setback. So he’s staying back in D.C. Right now there’s no timetable.
“He’s going to stay back there, he’s going to rehab. And then we’ll see what happens,” the manager added.
“But, man, this guy, he’s put the time in, that’s for sure, and I know in his heart he wants to pitch. And I can’t wait until the day that – if he does pitch – that he’s going to come back and pitch for us. And I know the fans want to see him pitch again. But at this point, it’s just health-related, and it’s the same thing, it’s the nerve that’s bothering him. So I know he’s going to get checked out by some doctors again, so we’ll see. But for right now, he’s not going to be with us.”
How much, if anything, the Nationals were expecting to get from Strasburg this season is not clear, though they have added starting depth to the mix along with their three young starters mentioned above (Gore, Gray, and Cavalli), with Trevor Williams signed to a two-year deal this winter, and Patrick Corbin looking to bounce back after a third straight sub-par run in the rotation, giving them options with Strasburg’s future a big question mark at this point.
More than what the future holds for the club this season, Martinez seemed to be worried about Strasburg, and how he’ll move forward in his career. He’s not throwing as clubs all return to work and begin building for the 2023 campaign, but he did everything he could while trying to get back at it.
“I know how hard he’s worked,” Martinez said. “I mean, and it’s nothing — I tell him, ‘Hey, you put every effort to come to Spring Training, and I know that, I know how hard you worked, just got to hopefully stick to the process, and go get checked out, and see what’s going on.’ That’s all he can do right now.”
Once again, Strasburg is shut down, with no timetable for a return to throwing or even for joining the team in West Palm Beach.
“I’m not going to put any kind of timetable on when he could come, or when he could not,” Martinez explained.
“Like I said, for right now, it’s about Stephen and trying to make sure that he’s able to come back, if he can. I mean, it’s tough. That guy’s endured a lot. And I know, like I said, he worked hard all winter long and was rehabbing every single day, six days a week. So, he put the time in.”
“He threw one bullpen, it went really well. He went to throw a second bullpen, and after the second bullpen, the next day, he just didn’t rebound as he thought he would.”