Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday with a neck strain, one day after he departed in the second inning of his start due to right trapezius muscle tightness.
Manager Dave Martinez said before Wednesday’s contest against the Braves that Strasburg flew back to D.C. for an MRI and to see Dr. Robin West. Martinez hadn’t yet received the results of that test, but Martinez said Washington needed to make a move ahead of first pitch.
The Nationals activated reliever Kyle McGowin off the taxi squad to provide cover for a bullpen that was taxed Tuesday. Strasburg lasted 1 1/3 innings in his start, leaving the mound after 30 pitches. With Jon Lester pitching on short rest Wednesday, Washington required another bullpen arm.
Strasburg spent over a month on the injured list already this season due to right shoulder inflammation. Tuesday was his third start since he was activated again. And the 32-year-old missed most of last season because of carpal tunnel surgery, meaning he’s pitched 26 2/3 innings since signing a seven-year, $240 million deal following the 2019 World Series championship.
“I know it’s frustrating, because he feels like he lets the team down, lets me down,” Martinez said. “But that’s something that we don’t even think about. I feel for Stephen. He missed all of last year. He felt great, wanted to come back and help us, and he’s had a rough go so far.”
Strasburg looked off from the first batter he faced Tuesday, throwing four straight balls to Ronald Acuna Jr. His velocity was down, with only seven of his 30 pitches topping 90 mph.
Strasburg allowed one run before he was pulled, and while Strasburg wanted to pitch through the trapezius muscle tightness, Martinez had no interest in keeping his right-hander on the mound. Strasburg has faced numerous injuries over his career — from a UCL tear in 2010 to periods stints on the injured list for back strains and elbow soreness, among others.
Washington is left to scramble for starting pitching solutions on Sunday, with Martinez saying “we’re banging our heads right now to try to figure out something for Sunday’s start.” Erick Fedde, who landed on the coronavirus protocol list in May, is scheduled to make a rehab start in Wilmington on Thursday, likely ruling him out of contention.
And the Nationals hope Strasburg’s latest absence isn’t a long one.
“We’ll get him back,” Martinez said. “And once we get him back and he’s healthy, he’s gonna help us win games.”