Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson spotted right-hander Stephen Strasburg in the tunnel leading to the dugout after the fifth inning trying to loosen up his right arm. Strasburg, who survived a rocky and laborious first two innings to retire 10 straight from the end of the second through the fifth, was feeling a little “tightness in his biceps” according to Johnson.
“As soon as I heard that, that was it,” Johnson said. “I don’t care who it was, when I find out they’ve got a little tightness in there and they’re worried about it, they’re out.”
Strasburg, though, downplayed the entire thing, stating adamantly that it was not a biceps issue — or an arm issue at all, for that matter — and it was just general fatigue. Johnson seemed definite that it was biceps tightness and he said the team had medical director Wiemi Douoguih examine Strasburg to be on the safe side.
Both were adamant that the team did not expect Strasburg to miss a start and Strasburg added that “everything feels great.”
After his last start, a four-inning outing against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday in which he allowed four earned runs and dealt with an issue with an analgesic balm, Strasburg seethed. He altered his between-starts routine, amping up his work both in the weight room and the bullpen, a route he called “a little immature” on Sunday, and felt that led to whatever was tiredness or tightness was plaguing him.
“It wasn’t my bicep,” Strasburg said. “It had nothing to do with the elbow or anything. Just normal fatigue.”
“I just got a little tired, got a little tight,” he added. “But that’s nothing different than any other outing. It’s something that, it’s going ot be like this for probably the rest of the year. It’s just part of coming back from Tommy John.”
Strasburg said he did not feel entirely right from the outset on Sunday, laboring through a first two innings that required him to throw 51 pitches, featured sloppy play behind him and saw three Orioles runs cross the plate (though only one earned). He noticed himself cutting a few pitches and felt that was a symptom of “trying to generate too much.”
“I felt like I was almost overthrowing a little bit early,” Strasburg said. “Sure enough when I decided to slow it down a little bit, the velocity came back and the location came back, too.”
He did settle, just as the Nationals offense began to wake up in the third inning, and added to his own run support with his first career home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, the tail end of a back-to-back homers with Jesus Flores.
His pitch count was high, needing 90 pitches through five innings, but not unreasonably so. He was frustrated when Johnson hooked him before the sixth, feeling, as he continued to insist, that the tightness or fatigue was completely normal.
“It’s not my call,” Strasburg said. “It would’ve been a lot easier decision to keep me out there if I didn’t throw so many pitches early on. It sucks. You want to go out there and throw at least six, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just another outing.”
When Johnson spotted Strasburg sitting on the bench with his teammates after he’d been pulled, the manager “was a little upset.”
“(I was) wondering why he’s not in there getting heat or treatment or rubbed or having every orthopedic doctor in the country come over and look at him,” Johnson said. “But he was fine. He stayed on the bench and that’s why I quizzed him. I said ‘How are you feeling now?’ He said ‘I feel a lot better right now.’ I’m least concerned. That’s from fatigue or overwork.”
Strasburg is next scheduled to pitch on Saturday night in Atlanta.
“It’s something I’ve just got to be smart about,” Strasburg said. “(Overworking after a bad start) is the thing I need to change. I can’t change my routine just because of an outcome.”