“It’s something that we didn’t really know what was going on,” Strasburg said Saturday afternoon. “It started out probably in the end of the first week of camp. I was waking up in the middle of the night and my hand was asleep. It kept falling asleep, and I was getting these feelings.
“I did everything I could to try to power through it. And it just got to a point where it was better to take a little bit of time off and get it right.”
Strasburg added that at first his throwing was not affected. That changed in the past two intrasquad games he pitched in this month. Then it got worse during an exhibition start against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, and conversations continued with the club’s medical staff.
When discussing the process Saturday, Strasburg referred to the recent cortisone injection as “the last shot.” A reporter asked him to clarify whether that meant he had had others for the nerve issue, and Strasburg laughed, paused and said, “Um, yeah, the last shot.” That was a clear indication that it was not the only one.
The 32-year-old signed a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Nationals this past winter. It came after he made 33 starts last season and finished it by winning the World Series MVP award. Strasburg has dealt with injuries throughout his career in Washington, including a few nerve issues, though both he and Manager Dave Martinez said this is not connected to any past ailments.
“I wouldn’t say like I’m extremely concerned by it. I don’t think it’s something that will keep me out too long,” Strasburg said. “I do know that when things aren’t right that it can lead to worse things. I feel like that’s something that does cross your mind. When you start trying to compensate mechanically to deal with something like this, it’s really more harm than good that can come out of it.”
The Strasburg news came amid a busy Saturday for the Nationals. In the morning, MLB announced that catcher Tres Barrera was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. Hours later, Washington was close to a deal with veteran infielder Josh Harrison, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Harrison, a two-time all-star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, struggled with the Detroit Tigers in 2019. Now, with so many moving roster parts, he could add depth at second and third base and in the corner outfield spots.
Then, just after 3 p.m., Martinez explained Strasburg’s injury and the decision to sideline him. The Nationals want to be very careful with Strasburg, knowing all pitchers had to ramp up quickly after a four-month break during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Strasburg spent most of that time throwing into a net at his home in Northern Virginia. He joins a short list of star pitches who have dealt with aches and pains this summer, which includes Jacob deGrom (back stiffness during training) and Clayton Kershaw (back stiffness that kept him from starting the Los Angeles Dodgers’ opener Thursday night).
With the season shortened to 60 games, Strasburg seems extra mindful of not rushing back. On one hand, there is increased urgency given the compact season, even if 16 teams will make an expanded playoff field. But on the other, 2020 is just a small sliver of Strasburg’s outlook.
“To be frank, this season is kind of a mess to begin with, so I got to think big picture here,” Strasburg said. “It’s my career. I know that in the long run it’s important to try to make as many starts as you can, and by putting yourself in a compromising position now, I don’t really know if it’s the best way moving forward.
“So it is what it is, but I’m pretty optimistic that it won’t keep me out very long.”
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