ATLANTA — A day later, whatever concern or panic there was over Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg appeared to have subsided within the visitors’ clubhouse at Turner Field.
Strasburg played catch Tuesday and went through his usual routine on the day after he pitches, a welcome sight after manager Davey Johnson said Monday night that the right-hander was dealing with forearm tightness. The Nationals expect Strasburg to start on his regular turn Saturday in Pittsburgh.
And after trying to put out flames of worry all day, those involved seemed most interested in simply moving past whatever issue there was.
“He never said anything to me,” said pitching coach Steve McCatty. “He was fine. Doctor looked at it, said he was fine. I didn’t see horse prints and go out looking for zebras. So he had a little tightness? I’m not going to panic.”
The discomfort, doctors seemed to think, stemmed from Strasburg using an electric impulse machine before his start that may have irritated a nerve in his forearm. The Braves’ team doctor, who examined Strasburg Monday night, assured the Nationals it was entirely unrelated to the pitcher’s ulnar collateral ligament and his 2010 Tommy John procedure.
“They think it’ll settle down by the time he throws his side [session],” said Johnson, who initially referred to the irritation as forearm tightness, though the Nationals say that is an inaccurate description.
“I think Stras feels a lot better about it, and so do I. … The way he finished off the sixth, it was pretty impressive. The doctor didn’t think anything was wrong. Why should I?”
With any medical issues seemingly cleared up, it left Strasburg’s performance Monday night, and his performance to date this season, to be dissected.
The Nationals‘ ace has not had a bad start to the season. Outside of a 1-4 record that is colored by the fact that he’s received just 1.9 runs of support per game — the fourth-worst mark of any starter in the National League — his numbers are not bad.
His 3.13 ERA is in the top 25 in the NL, and while he’s walked 7 percent of the batters he’s faced this season, that’s only slightly higher than the 5 percent he walked through his first five starts of the 2012 season. He has struggled in the first inning, but the Nationals believe that may be a bit of a mental block many pitchers have, and one they’re working to push through.
“I just want him to understand he’s human,” McCatty said. “You guys have built him up like Superman. Because he has that kind of ability … I want him to go out and fire it and still be aggressive and attack — something hopefully he gets better with.
“He’s pretty tough on himself. I wish that he wouldn’t be that way, but that’s part of his nature. That’s part of what’s made him as good as he is. And he’s going to be better. I think he’s going to be better when he’s able to realize this is a game built upon failure. … [You] all say he’s struggling. It’s really not that bad. Could it be better? Sure.”
Strasburg is occasionally dealing with some issues with his delivery when he overthrows the ball, which leads his arm to lag behind a little and his body to fall off the mound to the first base side on his follow-through. But that may be fixed with the type of mental adjustment McCatty is working with Strasburg to make.