Nats face more questions with Stras' hand

World Series MVP leaves start vs. Orioles after two-thirds of an inning

August 15th, 2020

missed his first two starts this season with a nerve issue in his right hand, but the three-time All-Star felt confident heading into Friday night’s outing against the Orioles.

Sixteen pitches later, his night was over. Even worse, Strasburg’s immediate future is now murky as the Nationals try to figure out why he’s experiencing the nerve issues that have hampered him since the season began.

“We watched him, and honestly, I didn't like what I saw,” said manager Dave Martinez.

With two outs in the first inning, Martinez headed to the mound with athletic trainer Paul Lessard, the decision to remove Strasburg already a foregone conclusion.

“I just told him then and there, ‘I don't want you to continue right now,'” Martinez said. “I talked to him after he came out, I appreciated him trying to gut it out. But I don't want this to become a bigger issue and something else goes wrong.”

Strasburg will be reevaluated on Saturday, though Martinez was uncertain as to precisely what that evaluation would involve.

“I think I honestly believe at this point that we need to really look at this very closely and see what happens in the next few days,” the manager said. “I'm not going to run him out there like that. He was upset, he wanted to be out there, but I’m not going to see him go through that. He's one of our best. To see him try to gut it out like that, I appreciate it. We all did. But we’ve got to take care of him.”

Strasburg retired Hanser Alberto on a popup to open the game, then Anthony Santander took him deep an at-bat later, launching a fastball over the right-field wall for a quick 1-0 Orioles lead.

José Iglesias then saw six pitches from Strasburg, ending in a groundout to second base. But the right-hander shook his hand after nearly every pitch, wincing several times. That was more than enough for Martinez.

“I told him, ‘You did everything you can; this is just a weird injury for you. Let's just try to get it right,’” Martinez said. “I'm going to do everything I can to take care of him. I don't want to see him out there shaking his hand in pain. I think the best thing right now is to kind of shut him down and see if we can get this straightened out.”

Strasburg declined to speak with reporters on Friday night, telling a Nationals media relations representative that he would talk once he had a better idea of what was going on. Martinez said the issue was tingling in Strasburg’s thumb, which the medical staff believes is related to an issue in his wrist.

“I hope he understands, and I hope he knows where I'm coming from and where our medical staff is coming from,” Martinez said of Strasburg, who was signed to a seven-year, $245 million deal in the offseason. “He’s going to be here for a lot of years; he's going to pitch a lot of innings. In order to do that, he's got to be healthy.”