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Stephen Strasburg’s rib injury, related to 2021 surgery, sends him to IL

Stephen Strasburg is back on the injured list. (Marta Lavandier/AP)

Unprompted, Dave Martinez answered the question on everyone’s mind, no matter how obvious it seemed. Stephen Strasburg’s latest reason for going on the injured list — a stress reaction in the second and third ribs on the right side of his body — is connected to the surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome that he underwent last summer.

“There are so many unknowns about this surgery and what can happen,” Martinez, the Washington Nationals’ manager, said before Tuesday night’s 10-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. “This is part of it. So it is related. We’re at a point now where, honestly, Stephen has put all the work in, he’s done everything that he needed to do, and it’s just ... this surgery, you don’t know where it’s going to go.”

Martinez wouldn’t publicly entertain the possibility that Strasburg won’t pitch, or at least won’t pitch comfortably, ever again. As expected, he was optimistic and hopeful about Strasburg’s ability to return at some point in a distant future. But the next steps for the 33-year-old felt just as vague as the diagnosis.

Strasburg, who’s officially on the 15-day IL, will visit orthopedic specialist Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. Other than that, Martinez told reporters the righty has to rest and let the stress reaction “calm down a little bit.” Strasburg made three minor league rehab starts, returned against the Miami Marlins on Thursday and then didn’t feel right, as Martinez put it, after a bullpen session Saturday. Before facing the Marlins, his most recent outing came June 1, 2021. He has appeared in eight games since signing a seven-year, $245 million contract in December 2019.

“We all hurt for him because he worked his butt off to get back and try to help us and he went out there and we were so excited that he was out there,” Martinez said. “It was something else to see him out there pitching again. I hope and pray that he comes back — who knows when; there is no timetable — but that he can come back and pitch again for us.”

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It was a busy afternoon in the Nationals’ clubhouse. They added three players: right-handed starter Jackson Tetreault, right-handed reliever Reed Garrett and left-handed reliever Francisco Perez. Tetreault, 26, was recalled and made his major league debut against the Braves on Tuesday night. Garrett and Perez drove together from Scranton, Pa., where the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings are playing, to help a heaving bullpen.

To make room for Tetreault and Garrett on the 40-man roster, the Nationals designated infielder Dee Strange-Gordon for assignment and placed reliever Hunter Harvey (right pronator strain) on the 60-day IL. To make room on the active roster, right-handed reliever Jordan Weems was optioned to Rochester.

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And to remind Washington of what’s missing, Joe Ross, who recently underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career, hung around with his right arm in a sling. Aníbal Sánchez, still sidelined with a cervical nerve impingement in his neck, was at his locker for a bit, his workout clothes stained with sweat. The good news was that reliever Mason Thompson threw in a Florida Complex League game, putting him on track to pitch again Thursday. But the grim outlook for Strasburg hung over it all.

“I talked to him briefly [Monday], and, you know, he’s a bit down,” Martinez said. “He wants to figure this out. He desperately wants to figure this out and see what’s going to happen, what’s going to transpire next.”