After Stephen Strasburg allowed four runs in four laborious innings against the Padres this afternoon, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson volunteered an unusual postgame revelation. Johnson said Strasburg had applied the analgesic ointment Hot Stuff to loosen up his body, and somehow it had covered an area that would affect the pitcher’s performance.
“I can’t really tell you what the problem was, but some Hot Stuff got misplaced,” Johnson said. “It was on his shoulder and evidently – I don’t know how it got to where it got, but it was uncomfortable, to say the least.”
The sense in the Nationals’ clubhouse was no one would have pulled a prank on Strasburg on the day he pitched – nobody would be that dumb. Baseball clubhouses are full of jocularity and pranks, but they don’t take precedence over winning.
Players found it plausible that the ointment had found the wrong place by accident. Some pitchers will use the Hot Stuff to prepare for a start and get their blood flowing. It is possible the rain and wet conditions caused the ointment to move to the wrong part of Strasburg’s body.
Strasburg, who seemed miffed Johnson had brought up the incident, didn’t address what had gone wrong.
“Yeah, you know, I’m going to keep that in the clubhouse,” Strasburg said.
Mueller Hot Stuff Ointment’s Web page says the goo is “great for warming muscles before play and afterwards to help relieve soreness” but is “not recommended for use with additional heat source or on sensitive skin.”
Strasburg matched the second-shortest start of his career and allowed more than three earned runs for only the second time in 25 starts. His day began with a botched pop-up that turned into a double, and it did not get much better.
“Yeah, it was just tough conditions all around,” Strasburg said. “But I’m not one to make excuses. It’s just one of those games where you go out there and do your best to overcome the obstacles.”