Strasburg will be eligible to come off the disabled list June 16. Lat strains often take between three and six weeks to fully heal, but Manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg could return from the DL on or shortly after the first day he is eligible.
“You don’t want anybody to pitch with an injury,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “Until he’s symptom-free, we’re not going to let him pitch.”
Strasburg had been scheduled to pitch a bullpen session Wednesday after playing catch from as far as 120 feet the previous two days. But because he still felt soreness in his lat, the Nationals canceled the bullpen session and decided to place him on the disabled list.
Strasburg still played catch Wednesday, warming up with the rest of the Nationals’ staff in right field before batting practice. As Nationals hitters took swings, Strasburg fired a ball off the side wall in right field, playing catch with himself.
Nationals officials had expressed confidence Strasburg could make the start Saturday. Strasburg said he was moving “in the right direction.” An outside medical official called the timetable “overly optimistic” based on the usual timetable to return from a lat injury.
“We were going to be cautious with him,” Rizzo said. “All along, we thought this injury was usually a DL-type of injury. Because he felt good, we wanted to see where he was at.”
The most pressing concern the Nationals face in regard to Strasburg’s injury is what could happen to his prized arm. Throwing with a lat injury can cause pitchers to overcompensate and lead to elbow or shoulder trouble. The lat muscle is crucial in the acceleration of the arm as a pitcher delivers a pitch.
“Any time a starting pitcher has something in the upper torso, it’s concerning,” Johnson said. “Not so much that injury but what it might to do his arm.”
Strasburg, 24, is 3-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 12 starts. Last season, the Nationals shut him down in September in order to protect him from future arm injury in the wake of his 2010 Tommy John elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
In his place Saturday likely will be Ohlendorf, whom the Nationals signed this winter to a minor league contract. Ohlendorf last pitched May 30, and the Nationals skipped him when his next turn in the rotation came, a few days after Strasburg’s injury. Ohlendorf is 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA in Syracuse. In his past two starts, Ohlendorf has allowed one earned run over 121
3innings with 22 strikeouts and seven walks.
Ohlendorf, 30, has made 73 starts in his six-year major league career. He made nine starts last season for the San Diego Padres. In 22 appearances over the past two years, Ohlendorf has a 7.94 ERA over 871
The Nationals could “possibly” call up a reliever to take Strasburg’s roster spot Thursday and Friday, Rizzo said. The two likeliest possibilities are lefty Xavier Cedeno, who spent one day with the Nationals last week, and right-hander Michael Crotta. Either pitcher would head back to Syracuse on Saturday to make room for Ohlendorf.