Stras (neck) heads to IL for second time

June 3rd, 2021

ATLANTA -- For the second time this season, is sidelined on the injured list.

The Nationals placed the right-hander on the 10-day IL on Wednesday evening because of a neck strain, one day after he exited Tuesday’s start against the Braves after throwing just 30 pitches across 1 1/3 innings. Strasburg flew back to Washington to undergo an MRI and meet with lead team physician Dr. Robin West.

“He has a bit of nerve irritation,” manager Dave Martinez said after the Nats’ 5-3 win at Truist Park. “It’s coming from his neck. We’re going to get him some rest and go from there, see how fast we can get him back.”

The Nats recalled righty Kyle McGowin from Triple-A Rochester in a corresponding move. McGowin, who has posted a 3.09 ERA in 10 relief appearances this season, already was with the team in Atlanta as part of the taxi squad.

Strasburg was making his fifth start of the season -- his third since returning from the IL on May 21 after a battle with right shoulder inflammation -- when he experienced stiffness and could not get loose. The discomfort showed in his results: Strasburg walked Ronald Acuña Jr. on four pitches in the leadoff at-bat, his velocity didn’t get above 91.6 mph and he delivered only 14 pitches for strikes.

Strasburg has thrown a total of 26 2/3 frames since being named the 2019 World Series Most Valuable Player. Last year, he was limited to five innings (two starts) because of season-ending carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand. Strasburg went on the injured list in mid-April because of right shoulder inflammation after two starts. He is 1-2 with a 4.57 ERA this season.

“I know he’s frustrated,” Ryan Zimmerman said after Tuesday’s game. “For us, it’s frustrating, too, because we know what Stephen can be, and we know that we need that guy if we’re going to get to where we want to go this year.

“I can tell you, it’s not for lack of effort or for lack of wanting to be out there. I’ve known Stephen for a long time, and he wants the ball as much as anyone else and puts in as much work as anyone else. That’s what makes you feel even worse for him.”

It wasn’t long ago that the Nationals were faced with a surplus of pitchers upon Strasburg’s reinstatement last month. They were going to have to decide if they would move Erick Fedde -- who had started in place of Strasburg -- to the bullpen or go with a six-man rotation.

Fedde, however, was placed on the COVID-19 IL, and he has not been deemed ready to pitch for the Nationals yet. He is slated to throw in a Minor League game on Thursday with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. As a result, Jon Lester pitched Wednesday on short rest.

“I know we’re banging our heads right now to try to figure out something for Sunday’s start,” Martinez said. “But once again, like I said, I want to make sure Fedde’s good and he’s healthy and he’s ready.”