Strasburg pulled after five innings because of health concerns

A group of reporters sat in the press conference room at Nationals Park ready to ask manager Davey Johnson about Stephen Strasburg hitting his first major league home run and bouncing back from a slow start to post five strong innings in today’s win over the Orioles.

Instead, we ended up asking Johnson a whole lot of questions about Strasburg’s health.

Johnson revealed that Strasburg was dealing with some sort of discomfort during his start today, discomfort which the Nats’ skipper referred to as “tightness in his biceps.” The issue popped up during the first inning of Strasburg’s start, according to Johnson, and stayed with the righty during his outing.

“Stras in the first inning threw a lot of pitches and didn’t say anything,” Johnson said. “But after he came out in the fifth, he wanted to go down and (work out his arm) because his tightness was in his biceps and he said it was bothering him. Early on, he thought he could get it loose and keep going, but it seemed to get tighter on him. And as soon as I heard that, I said that was it.”

Johnson said Strasburg didn’t make anyone aware of the discomfort until after he completed his fifth inning of work. As soon as he heard, Johnson immediately pulled Strasburg from the game.

“His pitch count was fine and he was throwing great ... (but) I don’t care who it was, when I find out they’ve got a little tightness in there and they’re worried about it, they’re out,” Johnson said. “But I talked to him later on in the game and he said to me, it relaxed a little bit and he felt a lot better.”

Strasburg downplayed the situation in his talk with reporters, saying that it wasn’t actually biceps tightness or anything relating to his elbow or the Tommy John surgery he underwent in September 2010. Instead the hard-throwing 23-year-old said it was just “normal fatigue” which he was battling today.

“Just got a little tired, got a little tight,” Strasburg said. “But that’s nothing different than any other outing. It’s something that it’s going to be like this for probably the rest of the year. It’s just part of coming back from Tommy John. Building up the innings, getting the stamina and everything. It’s something I’ve just got to be smart about.”

Strasburg had a theory for why he felt the fatigue on the mound today.

“I definitely felt like the big reason I got a little tired earlier was I was being a little immature in between and I was throwing a lot more because I didn’t like the way I was pitching last (start),” he said. “That’s the thing I need to change. I can’t change my routine just because of an outcome.”

Neither Johnson nor Strasburg said they anticipate the righty missing his next start, which is scheduled to come Saturday at Atlanta. Johnson said he was frustrated that Strasburg didn’t tell him earlier about the discomfort, and added that he was surprised to see his starter not getting medical attention after leaving the game.

“I was a little upset when I saw him on the bench,” Johnson said, “wondering why he’s not in there getting heat or treatment or rubbed or having every orthopedic doctor in the country come over and look at him, but he was fine.”

Strasburg and Johnson might say that the Nationals’ ace is fine, but until we see him take the mound on Saturday, there will be plenty of questions about his health.

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