Stephen Strasbourg will return to the injured list

Stephen Strasbourg will return to the injured list

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About 27 hours before Stephen Strasburg takes over the mound at Nationals Park, Dave Martinez announced Monday afternoon that the right-hander will soon return to the injured list. As the manager spoke to reporters ahead of the series opener with the Atlanta Braves, Strasburg was undergoing an MRI scan, the results of which will determine how significant his latest loss is.

Needless to say, this was the opposite of how the Washington Nationals wanted to start a tough week against divisional opponents.

“We’ll know more about the injury and all that after the game,” Martinez said of Strasburg, who returned to play for the Miami Marlins on Thursday after a long recovery from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. “But…this operation, this chest outlet thing, you just don’t know. We don’t know yet if it’s the same problem or not, but we’ll know more as soon as we get the MRI and the doctors read the image. But it stinks because he was so excited to be back.

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During this departure from the Marlins, Strasbourg had seven runs on eight hits in 4⅔ innings. What mattered most, however, was that he had thrown 83 pitches and felt nothing more than general fatigue. That changed after his bullpen session between starts on Saturday. Strasbourg “didn’t feel good, a little bit uncomfortable,” Martinez told reporters, but he didn’t specify an area of ​​Strasbourg’s body that bothered him.

After consecutive season-ending surgeries, the 33-year-old has missed most of the last three years. Still, he’s not even halfway through a seven-year, $245 million deal he signed after being named World Series MVP in 2019. The deal so far has included 31⅓ innings, a number likely to freeze for the foreseeable future. Prior to kicking off on Thursday, Strasbourg made three rehab appearances in the minor leagues. His previous start in the majors was on June 1, 2021.

“We’re going to be as careful with him as possible and try to do everything for Stephen and for this organization going forward,” Martinez said. “Right now we’re on these bumpy roads, and we’ll see what happens.”

As of now, Tuesday’s starter against the Braves and Max Fried is still to be determined. Strasbourg are expected to go on the IL ahead of this game, making room for a new arm. One starting option is Josiah Gray, who was pulled from Monday’s start after a 93-minute rain delay. Another is Jackson Tetreault, who is scheduled to pitch for Class AAA Rochester on Tuesday and would need a 40-man berth. The 26-year-old right-hander had a strong May for the Red Wings and has a 4.19 ERA in 12 starts. Either way, Washington is taxed by Gray getting pushed around and Erasmo Ramírez, one of his long relievers, taking charge for him on Monday. But while launch plans matter — the Nationals are also set to cover a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday — Strasburg’s career prospects are a far bigger concern.

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In August 2020, he had carpal tunnel surgery on his right hand. In July 2021, it was surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a major procedure that kept some pitchers from being the same. But at this stage, Strasbourg can’t stay healthy enough for the Nationals to see what’s left. He missed the early years of his megadeal. Soon, the question of next steps will be rephrased, if it hasn’t already, about whether Strasbourg can ever be a constant of any kind in Washington’s rotation.

For one thing, he still has time to get there, mostly because the Nationals are rebuilding and not making any sort of push this year. But on the other hand, each of Strasbourg’s steps seems to be going in the wrong direction.

“Stephen is here – he’s going to be here,” Martinez said. “So we want to make sure we take care of him now. I hope we get it back and when we do it will pass.

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