- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - Nationals rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg first sensed tightness in his pitching shoulder “a couple days ago,” he said Wednesday, chalking it up to “kind of hitting the wall a little bit.”

A day after being scratched minutes before what was supposed to be the 10th major league start of his much-hyped career, Strasburg said he felt “a lot better” and his range of motion is “starting to come back.”

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and trainer Lee Kuntz said Strasburg did not indicate he had a problem before Tuesday, when his pregame bullpen session was stopped about a half-dozen throws in.

“I wasn’t really scared, because it’s kind of something that I’ve had happen to me before,” Strasburg said, referring to feeling stiffness in his right shoulder while in college at San Diego State. “It wasn’t on just one pitch, so that’s obviously a big thing.”

He took anti-inflammatory medicine Wednesday and underwent treatment that Kuntz said included “stretching, strengthening … using heat, using ice.” But the No. 1 overall pick in the June 2009 amateur draft did not toss a ball. Instead, during batting practice, Strasburg stood in the right-field grass, chatting with pitching coach Steve McCatty.

The plan is for Strasburg to go at least two days _ and perhaps three or four _ without throwing at all. It’s not clear when he will next pitch in a game; his next scheduled appearance would be Sunday.

“We don’t have an update whether he’s going to pitch Sunday or when he’ll pitch again, if not Sunday,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “We’re just really going to give it another day or two before we do anything.”

The Nationals have been quite careful in the way they have brought along Strasburg since giving him a record $15.1 million contract right before the August 2009 deadline for getting deals done.

Even though Strasburg was dominant at times during spring training, he was moved to minor league camp in Florida, then began the season at Double-A Harrisburg. The righty was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse in early May, before making his highly anticipated major league debut June 8 _ and, somehow, surpassing expectations by striking out 14 batters in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He left that game after seven innings, part of a pattern of being eased into the rigors of the major leagues. The Nationals have said they would end Strasburg’s season when he reaches 160 innings, even if that cap were to come in late August or early September.

So far in 2010, he’s thrown 109 2-3 innings total, including in the minors, which essentially matches his count in his final college season at San Diego State: 109 innings.

“I’m just at the point in the season where I’m kind going down uncharted territory,” Strasburg said Wednesday, speaking to reporters in a hallway outside the home clubhouse at Nationals Park.

Asked to describe what he feels in his shoulder _ the official team diagnosis was “inflammation” _ Strasburg said: “After I throw the ball, when I finish.”

He continued: “I’ve been learning a lot here, and when you’re playing this many games throughout the season, you’re going to start feeling things in your body that you wouldn’t otherwise thought you’d feel. You know, little things getting to feel a little off. … It really is a blessing in disguise, because I know what this feels like to get to the 100-game point, getting right up to this many innings. And I know how to prepare for it now. And next year, God willing, this won’t happen again, and we’ll be in playoff contention.”

He’s been by far the brightest spot in another last-place season for the Nationals in 2010, going 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 15 walks in 54 1-3 innings.

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