There are two words that prompt a universally adverse reaction across baseball: injured list. Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg tried to rehab and throw his way through a nerve issue in his pitching hand this season to avoid hearing them. But in a move to prevent further injury, the Nationals placed
There are two words that prompt a universally adverse reaction across baseball: injured list. Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg tried to rehab and throw his way through a nerve issue in his pitching hand this season to avoid hearing them. But in a move to prevent further injury, the Nationals placed him on the 10-day IL with carpal tunnel neuritis before Sunday's tilt against the Orioles.
“I think he didn’t want to accept it, but he accepted it,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Let’s put it that way.”
The 32-year-old Strasburg has gone 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in two starts this season. He began experiencing tingling in his right thumb toward the end of the first week of Summer Camp, and he would wake up one morning to discover his hand asleep.
Strasburg missed his first two starts, but he tossed four crisp frames before exiting in the top of the fifth of his season debut on Aug. 9 vs. the Orioles. In his last start, in Friday night's 15-3 win at Baltimore, he completed two-thirds of an inning before being removed from the game.
In a corresponding roster move, the Nats recalled right-hander Ryne Harper from their alternate training site. Harper, 31, has appeared in nine of Washington’s 17 games this season, amassing six scoreless outings but allowing nine runs across the other three. He has struck out 12 batters against four walks while going 1-0 with an 8.10 ERA.
This is Strasburg’s first stint on the injured list since July 2018.
“No one’s ever happy about being hurt,” Martinez said. “The first thing that comes to your mind as a player is, he can’t help his teammates -- and it’s not a good feeling. With everything he’s gone through in the last few weeks, I told him, ‘I think it’s not only the best thing for not only you, but for us, too, to get you right because we’ve still got baseball. I know it’s a shortened season, but the best of the season’s still to come.' Hopefully, when we’re at the end here, that he’s available.”
There is no timeframe set for Strasburg’s return, though he is scheduled to undergo nerve testing on Monday. When asked if there is an inclination to shut down the reigning World Series MVP for the remainder of the season, Martinez said the Nationals are “focused on Monday and seeing what they say Monday.” The priority is improving the long-term health of their No. 2 starter, whom they inked to a record seven-year, $245 million contract in December.
“I don’t think this is going to get better soon,” Martinez said. “We tried. Right now, we’re just going to try to see if we can get him healthy.”
Erick Fedde will get the nod as Strasburg recovers. The right-hander was a candidate for the fifth-starter role, which went to Austin Voth, and he has stepped in during Strasburg’s absence this season. Fedde tossed 5 1/3 scoreless frames on Friday after Strasburg's early exit. He is 0-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 7 1/3 innings across two starts in 2020.
There will be a domino effect in the bullpen, too, where Fedde had been tabbed as a long man. Martinez will look to get more innings out of his starters to prevent wearing down the relievers’ arms. Aníbal Sánchez has thrown a total of 13 innings across three starts, and Voth has tallied 14 frames across three of his own.
“The other guys -- the Sánchezes, the Voths -- I just want those guys to go deeper in games,” Martinez said. “I think our bullpen has done a really nice job. If they can go deep in the games, I think our bullpen could do really well.”
Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.