Both Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty said the Nationals do not regard the soreness as a significant issue. Rather, the Nationals believe the arm fatigue to be typical of any pitcher at this point in the season, particularly a starter, like Strasburg, who is not far removed from Tommy John surgery.
“I wasn’t really concerned that much yesterday when he came out,” Johnson said. “It was just normal tightness. But anything at all with him, that’s it.”
Johnson originally termed Strasburg’s fatigue as biceps soreness. Strasburg called it general tiredness, not located in any specific muscle or area.
“It sounds like we didn’t get our story straight or something,” Johnson said. “We were shaking hands out there, I said, ‘I’m going to tell them it was more tightness in the bicep and it started feeling it after the first inning.’ I was reading the paper today and we’re speaking a different language. That’s Stras. Everything is magnified. But he’s fine.”
McCatty clarified that Strasburg simply felt the kind of tiredness and soreness a starter feels after making eight or 10 starts.
“Just general, blah, tired, whatever,” McCatty said. “This is the part of year where a lot guys start going through this. That’s kind of the way I’m taking it. It was not a big deal at all. Strassy was mad he came out. That’s just the way it is. I don’t know if it was a little knot in his biceps, triceps. You just don’t feel good.”
Strasburg said he had put more work in between starts to compensate for a disappointing outing in his previous appearance. The right-hander chided himself as immature for letting himself work harder than usual. McCatty said he’ll monitor Strasburg to make sure he does repeat the mistake.
“When he doesn’t do as good as he thinks he should, sometimes a younger guy will try to work harder,” McCatty said. “Sometimes, you just got to say, ‘You had some pretty good starts in there. You were bound to have one that’s not as good.’ That’s all part of the package. He expects great things of himself.”
Johnson learned about the discomfort Strasburg felt for most of the outing after the fifth, by which point Strasburg had thrown 90 pitches. He fired a 97-mph fastball in the fifth inning, and so the fatigue did not lessen his velocity. McCatty said Johnson overheard McCatty and Strasburg discussing the condition of his arm, which caused Johnson to pull him.
“He was really mad at me,” McCatty said. “I was talking to him, and that got Davey’s attention. He was mad at me. I said, ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s you or anybody else.’ If you don’t feel good, I’m not going to treat him any more special kid gloves than I would anyone else. But he wanted to go pitch. He was kind of mad at me.”
Strasburg has been adamant since spring training he wants to be treated this season like any other starting pitcher. Johnson and McCatty both said any pitcher would have been pulled if he, like Strasburg, admitted to feeling discomfort in his arm.
“He said, ‘I don’t want you to think I’m a wuss,’ ” Johnson said. “I said, ‘No. I’d do that with anybody in my rotation.’ If they have anything that’s bothering them, they’re out. End of conversation. But he was worried out me thinking he wasn’t a man or something. I said, ‘Forget it.’ ”
This afternoon, Strasburg joined the Ultimate Frisbee game that a handful of Nationals pitchers play each day in the outfield, a sign of the Nationals’ low worry level. In two days, he’ll throw his typical bullpen session. The Nationals are convinced Strasburg’s routine will continue smoothly, albeit with more scrutiny than usual.
“We all kind of tend to forget, even thought he came back last year, he’s still coming back off Tommy John,” McCatty said. “You’re going to have those ups and downs where you feel really good and you don’t feel really good. It’s just dealing with it as he goes. We’re trying to do the best thing for Stephen and the organization.”
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