- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

Stephen Strasburg has been known to tinker and self-diagnose.

Last year, Strasburg arrived at Nationals Winterfest, the team’s annual December fan festival, and explained that he thought throwing sliders at a high rate contributed to his partially torn pronator tendon. He did not participate in the postseason because of the pain. That left him frustrated.

So, Strasburg ditched his slider for the most part in 2017. He also decided he was going to pitch exclusively from the stretch during the season. The numbers were great as a result, but the changes did not prevent him from having another arm problem.

His high-priced right arm once again became sore around the All-Star break, when Strasburg stopped his routine in order to join the three days of festivities in Miami. He was unsure if he would pitch and ended up just watching the game from the bullpen. His first start afterward was dominant. His next was a warning shot.

Strasburg pitched two innings in Arizona before leaving the game because of what he called “achiness” in his forearm. He did not pitch in a game for almost a month.

A year after pointing at his slider as a problem, Strasburg said last week he thought the disruption in his routine during the All-Star break affected him. That has made him consider not going in the future.

“I felt like at the All-Star break it was a tough situation,” Strasburg said. “Might have to rethink about if I’m going to actually pitch or not pitch in an All-Star Game, whether I’ll actually go all together. That was the issue I felt like was the reason why I got hurt. I was on such a good program with the training staff and massage therapists — I was in this routine. Then all of a sudden you’re asked to throw, potentially pitch — maybe not — but not have any access or ability to really stick to your routine. Once that’s over, it’s like right back into it. Bullpen, day off, game.

“I just know that little lapse, for whatever reason, it pushed me back a bit. It started making my arm hurt. My arm felt good before that, then it was like after that, it just didn’t feel right. I’m glad at that point I kind of tried to put my pride aside and say hey, I want to be there in the end. So we just had to get it right. No point in pushing through it. I’m glad it worked out that way.”

Multiple things played into Strasburg’s decision to rest after the initial pain surfaced last season: The Nationals had a large lead in the National League East and appeared set to cruise to the division title, which they did. He was extremely irritated that he was not able to pitch in the postseason in 2016, which made pitching in the playoffs in 2017 his priority from spring training on. Stopping in late July and resuming in August allowed him to do so.

The challenge next season with his consideration to skip All-Star weekend is that the event will occur in Washington. Preparations have been going on since the District was announced as the recipient of the game, which will be played July 17, 2018. The Nationals sent a gaggle of employees to last season’s All-Star Game in Miami to trail the staffers there and see how to run the three days that would be under their control the following year.

If Strasburg can come close to a repeat of 2017, he may have to choose what to do come July. He was so effective — particularly from his August return on — that he finished third in Cy Young voting. Strasburg, always one to redirect the spotlight, used FaceTime from his home in San Diego to connect to the announcement of who would be named the Cy Young Award recipient. His teammate, Max Scherzer, won for the second consecutive year.

“A long time ago, I tried to focus on attainable goals that I can control and that I can focus on, so I’m going to continue to do that,” Strasburg said. “I think the ultimate goal for me is not the Cy Youngs, but it’s the World Series. I think that just comes from playing a team sport. That’s what just gets me going, gets me excited, is coming together as a team and accomplishing something great.”

That pursuit may be the reason he doesn’t participate in the All-Star Game anymore.

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