WASHINGTON -- The Nationals’ starpower took another hit when right-hander Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his first start of the 2020 season because of a nerve issue in his right hand on Saturday, just two days after Juan Soto was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Manager Dave Martinez stressed
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals’ starpower took another hit when right-hander Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his first start of the 2020 season because of a nerve issue in his right hand on Saturday, just two days after Juan Soto was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Manager Dave Martinez stressed that the issue at this point pertains only to Strasburg’s right hand, and Strasburg is not feeling any discomfort in his arm.
“I wouldn’t say I’m extremely concerned by it,” Strasburg said Saturday afternoon. “I don’t think it’s something that’ll keep me out too long.”
Strasburg began feeling the discomfort toward the end of the first week of Summer Camp. He would wake up in the middle of the night and find his hand was asleep. At first, the sensations didn't impact his throwing, but they increased as he began to ramp up for the beginning of the season.
On Monday, Strasburg threw five innings of six-hit, six-strikeout ball in an exhibition game in Baltimore. The nerve injury affected his command and the feeling he had when holding the baseball.
“After I got out of the last start, problems, issues just kind of kept persisting,” Strasburg said. “I saw that there was nerve impingement in my wrist. I got a cortisone shot to hopefully create some more space in there to let it calm down and get back to feeling normal.”
The Nationals didn’t want to take any chances by rushing their No. 2 starter to the mound too quickly on Saturday night. Strasburg, the 2019 World Series MVP, re-signed with Washington on a seven-year, $245 million contract that very briefly set records for total dollars and average annual value ($35 million) for a pitcher until those marks were topped by Gerrit Cole’s deal with the Yankees.
Strasburg went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts and 209 innings during the regular season last year before going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the postseason. He started and won Games 2 and 6 of the World Series against the Astros.
“We need Strasburg for the duration, so we’re going to be very careful,” Martinez said. “It’s something that happens in this game, and we’re going to make sure that, when he goes out there, he feels good and he’s ready to go.”
Strasburg said he has felt an improvement since his last shot, which was administered less than 24 hours earlier. He is taking a “one-day-at-a-time” approach to get healthy enough for his 240th career start, and the first of his 11th Major League season.
“I’ve got to think big picture here,” Strasburg said. “It’s my career, and I know that in the long run, it’s important to try to make as many starts as you can. By putting yourself in a compromising position now, I don’t really know if it’s necessarily the best way moving forward.”
Instead of moving up the rotation by one start, Martinez gave the nod to Erick Fedde, who was on schedule to pitch after his last appearance was out of the bullpen behind Strasburg on Monday. Fedde had been in the final running for the fifth starter spot, which went to Austin Voth. He struck out three and allowed two runs (including a home run to Giancarlo Stanton projected to travel 483 feet per Statcast) and four hits over four innings in the Nats’ 9-2 victory.
“As you guys recall, we had this issue with Game 5 of the World Series,” Martinez said, referencing Max Scherzer being scratched because of a neck injury. “It is what it is."
Between Strasburg and Soto, the Nationals have two starters sidelined just two games into the regular season -- but they're no strangers to challenges, and they will face them head on.
“We talk about those bumpy roads, right? It's just day to day,” Martinez said. “I tell these guys, 'We'll get through it, we just have to stick together.' We knew we were going to have difficulties -- it's part of the game. We just have to hang in there and hopefully this is no major issue for Stras, and he's back out soon."
Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.