Potential discipline for Stephen Strasburg, Davey Johnson; other notes from a wild night

August 18, 2013

(Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Stephen Strasburg, and perhaps also Manager Davey Johnson, could be facing discipline from Major League Baseball. According to league rules, a pitcher is fined a minumum of $200 for intentionally throwing at a batter. Each case is reviewed by league officials and further discipline is doled out on a case-by-case basis.

An MLB spokesman said Sunday the league was reviewing the Nationals-Braves game.

Following Saturday’s game, Strasburg declined to address hitting Justin Upton with a first-pitch fastball to the hip in the first inning. The actions and situations, however, suggested it was perhaps retaliation for the Braves hitting Bryce Harper three times this season, including twice on Friday. The Braves acted as if they expected a plunking, as Upton took first with a smile and Jayson Heyward clapped from the dugout steps.

After both benches were warned, Strasburg’s command turned erratic in the second inning and he walked Jordan Schafer on four pitches. He then fired three wild pitches at Andrelton Simmons, the last two behind his back. Strasburg was then tossed by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson and Johnson, by rule, was ejected, too.

Strasburg couldn’t explain the strange sequence, suggesting that sitting for a long top half of the inning had something to do with it. “Just didn’t really feel good out there and couldn’t hit the spot,” he said.

In the past, pitchers have been suspended several games and issued fines. For example, Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers was suspended six games and fined in July for throwing at Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist. In 2011, then-Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman was suspended one game and pitcher Jason Marquis for five games after Marquis hit Upton, then of the Arizona Diamondbacks, with a pitch after both teams were warned. (Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson was suspended also one game and reliever Esmerling Vasquez was suspended five games for hitting Danny Espinosa after Marquis had been ejected.)

Before Strasburg left the field on Saturday, Johnson tried to explain to Hudson that Strasburg’s command was simply off.

“He walked the guy on four straight pitches, he didn’t have a feel for the ball, he couldn’t throw it over the plate, you know, I sent my pitching coach out there and still couldn’t find the grip on the ball,” Johnson said. “Threw him out and me out. So I was upset.”

>>> Dan Haren, who notched his career first save on Saturday night with a scoreless 15th inning, said he will still start as scheduled on Tuesday in Chicago. After Strasburg was tossed, he volunteered himself. After Craig Stammen pitched the 12th, 13th and 14th innings, there were no relievers left in the bullpen.

So it was up to Haren and he delivered. He had already thrown a 30-pitch bullpen earlier in the day and done upper-body lifting in the weight room.

“I threw 15 or 20 pitches out there, but I should be fine,” he said. “Unless something comes up tomorrow.”

>>> The Nationals bullpen was depleted on Saturday. Stammen has thrown five innings over the past two games and is likely unavailable on Sunday. Ian Krol has thrown three innings over the past two games. Drew Storen has appeared in two straight games. Tanner Roark tossed four innings in relief of Strasburg.

Knorr said that Rafael Soriano, Fernando Abad, Tyler Clippard and Storen, among the freshest pitchers in the bullpen, would be available on Sunday. Soriano blew his second straight save on Saturday, and it would have been his third straight if not for Denard Span’s gave-saving catch on Wednesday. Soriano’s ERA has ballooned to 3.68 and his six blown saves are tied for second most in the National League.

“I don’t have a whole lot of concern,” Johnson said of Soriano. “He’s a heck of a pitcher and the ball was just up. He looked like he was throwing pretty good. These guys are swinging the bat pretty good. They hit four homers [Saturday] and it wasn’t just off of him. He’ll be back. He’ll be fine.”

>>>The Nationals bullpen tied a MLB record with 19 strikeouts on Saturday, matching the 1967 Baltimore Orioles who last accomplished the feat on June 4, 1967 in 19 innings against Washington. The Nationals did it in 15 innings. (That statistic comes from Elias Sports.)

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.
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James Wagner · August 18, 2013