ATLANTA — An MRI done on Stephen Strasburg on Saturday revealed a slight strain of a muscle in the right side of the pitcher’s back. The hope, though, is that Strasburg may not have to miss a start with the issue.
Update: Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz clarified late Saturday night that Strasburg’s MRI revealed a Grade 1 lat strain, not an oblique strain as was initially diagnosed on Friday night. The issue is at the bottom of the late, close to where the oblique and the lat muscle meet.
A Grade 1 strain is the mildest kind someone can have and the Nationals have not set a real timetable yet for how long they expect Strasburg to be dealing with the issue. They have not placed him on the disabled list, and they are still holding out hope he will not have to miss a start.
“We’re going to wait and see how he feels,” Kuntz said. “We’re going to treat it right now and play it by ear.”
The Nationals have an offday on Monday and could push Strasburg’s next turn in the rotation until June 8.
“If he’s not having any discomfort and it’s not grabbing him, he wouldn’t miss a start,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “But if it’s bothering him, he’ll probably miss a start and see if that eases up for him.”
Strasburg said the issue had been “nagging” him in the bullpen for a few of his previous starts but once he would get in the game, the tightness would disappear — and he’d been pitching as well as he has all season in his three starts before Friday night.
But on Friday, the tightness was lessened in the bullpen and increased during the game.
Strasburg looked uncomfortable in the second inning, rolling his shoulders between each pitch, and the Nationals pulled him after the frame. Strasburg said the pain mostly affected him after he’d throw a pitch.
“It was more so after I threw the pitch,” Strasburg said. “I think that was kind of affecting the way I was finishing everything. It’s kind of hard when you know what you’re going to feel after you throw the pitch. You just kind of go out there and try and trick your mind, thinking it’s not going to happen.
“But it is what it is. I can’t do anything about it.”
For now the Nationals will not make a roster move for Strasburg.
Johnson mentioned Craig Stammen, who threw four perfect innings in relief of Strasburg, as a possible candidate to start in Strasburg’s place if the right-hander cannot make even a pushed-back next start — but added that it’s far too soon to say with any certainty.
Johnson had previously been reluctant to move Stammen into the rotation, even for a spot start, because of his value as a reliever and how much success he’s had in that role.
“He was very successful,” Johnson said. “His role is important, but the pitchers have also been giving me more innings, so the need for a long man is less.
“It’s also who would line up that’s on the roster… We’ve got a man up here, (Nate) Karns, who is now in our rotation. (Ross Detwiler) may be coming off (the disabled list). So, there’s too many variables to be deciding who’s starting where four or five days from now.”