Zuckerman: Strasburg Plays Catch, Returns to D.C.

Zuckerman: Strasburg Plays Catch, Returns to D.C.
August 22, 2010, 4:35 pm
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Sunday, August 22, 2010, 12:32 p.m., Updated at 2:23 p.m.

By Mark Zuckerman

PHILADELPHIA -- Stephen Strasburg went through his typical day-after-start workout -- including playing catch -- Sunday morning at Citizens Bank Park before heading back to Washington to undergo an MRI on the strained forearm that forced him out of Saturday night's game in the fifth inning.

The Nationals rookie right-hander, who left without speaking to reporters, won't know what the club's plan for him will be until results of the MRI are known later Sunday or early Monday.

Mike Rizzo did emphasize that Strasburg has not been shut down at this point. The Nationals general manager also said Strasburg had a very similar experience while in college and wound up staying in the game without reporting any problems.

Does that knowledge of Strasburg's history leave everyone feeling a little more at ease as they await the MRI results?

"Yeah, because he's done it before and pitched through it," Rizzo said.

Still, the Nationals remain ultra-cautious with their 22-year-old hurler, as they've been since drafting him No. 1 in the country last summer. Manager Jim Riggleman said it's "probably safe to say" Strasburg won't make his next scheduled start, Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"We'll let the doctor tell us and let Steve tell us how he's feeling," Riggleman said. "I don't even know if he's playing catch tomorrow. The doctor might say, 'Don't pick up a ball.' The doctor might say, 'This looks fine, this is normal pitching stuff, go get 'em.' But I doubt it."

Strasburg was cruising along in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday night, showing no signs of any trouble. He had allowed one run on two hits, striking out six without walking anyone in the Phillies' potent lineup.

But on his 56th pitch of the night -- a 1-1 changeup to Domonic Brown -- Strasburg winced in pain and began shaking his right arm. By the time Riggleman, catcher Ivan Rodriguez, pitching coach Steve McCatty and trainer Lee Kuntz reached the mound, the rookie insisted he was fine and that he could remain in the game. Riggleman, though, didn't take any chances and pulled his starter at that point.

Strasburg didn't appear to be happy with the decision Saturday night, and his demeanor apparently hadn't changed Sunday morning.

"I think he's a little dispirited right now, rightfully so," Riggleman said. "This is what they do. They pitch. ... He wants to pitch, and right now he doesn't know when he's going to pitch again."

The forearm issue comes nearly one month after Strasburg was scratched from a scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves due to shoulder tightness. Though it was never deemed an actual injury and Strasburg reported no lingering problems, the Nationals still placed him on the 15-day disabled list for precautionary reasons. He wound up returning after an 18-day layoff, making no minor-league rehab start.

The combination of last month's shoulder tightness and this latest bout of forearm pain has prompted plenty of baseball insiders to suggest the Nationals need to shut Strasburg down for the remainder of the season and not take any more chances.

The club, though, will base its decision solely on the latest forearm injury, not on any previous concerns with Strasburg.

"We're going to look at this as an isolated situation, with the flexor strain," Rizzo said. "The shoulder, that problem's resolved. This is about the flexor. We're going to take it independently. The shoulder was certainly a precautionary thing. And hopefully this is a precautionary thing also."