MILWAUKEE — Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will miss his second consecutive start Sunday because of lingering discomfort in his back, according to Washington Manager Dusty Baker. Tanner Roark will start in the series finale against Milwaukee, which extended the Nationals’ losing streak to seven with a 6-5 win Saturday.
Baker did not specify a timetable on Strasburg’s return or whether the team would have to put Strasburg on the disabled list or call up another pitcher from minors to help fortify the staff while Strasburg is out.
Strasburg, who was scratched from last Monday’s start against the Dodgers because of what was described as upper-back tightness, was originally expected to return to the mound Sunday. He told reporters Friday that he had dislocated two ribs while lifting weights last weekend and that he was recuperating fine after having the ribs popped back into place earlier this week.
“It was kind of just some freak thing … down in the weight room. I don’t really know why, it just kind of threw everything out of sync. I’m not really used to having too many ribs pop out all the time, but I guess when they do, I’ve had all the symptoms,” Strasburg said Friday.“Hopefully I can just stay on top of things.”
He threw on a mound for the first time all week on Friday in what he described as a light bullpen session that is customary after an off day. He had previously only thrown on flat-ground earlier this week, continuing to treat the back ailment primarily with anti-inflammatory medication. While he expressed confidence in starting Sunday, Strasburg also said Friday that he didn’t want to rush back this week and repeat the same mistake he made last year, when he was trying to manage an ankle injury that messed with his mechanics. He also experienced a trapezius strain that significantly impacted his season.
“I don’t think you want any injury to happen. But I think the way it did, I just know that I don’t want to make the same mistake I did last year. Number one go out there and pitch not right, and not help the team to the best of my ability. And number two, potentially be out for a long period of time,” Strasburg said on Friday. “I just wanted to try and nip it in the bud. I feel like it’s going in the right direction.”
The Nationals have kept the rotation healthy up until this point, as Strasburg was the first starter to miss a start last Monday in Los Angeles. The staff has had a difficult 10-day road trip, and the struggles have only continued in Milwaukee. Max Scherzer gave up two home runs in a loss to the Brewers on Friday night, and lefty Gio Gonzalez lost a sixth game in seven starts after giving up six hits and six runs in just three innings on Saturday. Baker said that Gonzalez is healthy and is expected to make his next start in five days.
Baker is also waiting on the return of his closer, Jonathan Papelbon, who on Saturday threw a bullpen session for the first time since landing on the disabled list on June 14 with a intercostal strain. It’s the first time that Papelbon has been on the disabled list since debuting in the majors in 2005. He’s could begin his rehab assignment at Class A Potomac as early as Monday, although he was still waiting to confirm that move with General Manager Mike Rizzo on Saturday.