ATLANTA - A day after Stephen Strasburg left his outing against the Braves just two innings in, the Nationals have a bit more clarity on his injury, but the timetable surrounding when he'd be able to return is still uncertain.
Manager Davey Johnson said that Strasburg underwent an MRI back in D.C. today, which revealed a slight strain in his back/side.
The Nationals have not yet determined whether Strasburg will be able to make his next start, instead choosing to monitor his progress over the next couple days and playing things by ear. Because of Monday's scheduled off-day, Strasburg could be pushed back and pitch June 8 without needing to miss a turn in the rotation, but the right-hander would need to prove in the next couple days that he was healthy enough that he didn't need a longer period of rest.
"We'll see how he feels," Johnson said. "We have that off-day so we could push him back. If he's not having any discomfort and it's not grabbing him, he wouldn't miss a start. But if it's bothering him, he'll probably miss a start and see if that eases up for him and they don't have to do anything more for that. But that's the old method of taking care of somebody that had something bothering him. ...
"A lot of times, tightness in muscles, rest a little and it loosens up and you'll be fine, good to go. So I'm hopeful that we're not having a lingering problem with Stras."
Ross Detwiler's currently dealing with a similar type of injury, one that has landed him on the disabled list. Detwiler is battling an oblique/back strain, but his injury is on his left, non-throwing side (compared to the right, throwing side for Strasburg), and Johnson said Detwiler's issue is a little lower in the back than Strasburg's.
Detwiler will miss his third start tomorrow, and there's no timetable as of now for when he'll be able to return to action, but Johnson wasn't willing to compare the two injuries to his pitchers.
"Every injury is different," he said. "You don't lump them all together. Different location. (Strasburg) had some discomfort in the previous start but he was fine, pitched 6 or 7 innings. It just bothered him more when he was warming up this time. We're looking to avoid that."
Johnson said that if Strasburg needs to miss his next start, Craig Stammen would be the leading candidate to fill in, although there are other options, as well. Johnson has been reluctant to move Stammen into the rotation for a spot-start in the past because Johnson values the job Stammen does as a versatile long reliever in the 'pen. After working four perfect innings in relief of Strasburg last night, however, Stammen is stretched out and Johnson is more open to going to him.
"He was very successful (yesterday)," Johnson said. "His role is important, but the pitchers have also been giving me more innings, so the need for a long man is less. ... It's also who would line up that's on the roster. (Ryan) Perry I know just came off the DL (at Triple-A), so he would be a candidate. We've got a man up here, (Nathan) Karns, who is now in our rotation. Det may be coming off. So there's too many variables to be deciding who's starting where four or five days from now."
While the Nats haven't yet decided whether to put Strasburg on the disabled list, they did place Bryce Harper on the DL today with bursitis in his left knee, and brought up right-handed reliever Erik Davis to fill out the 25-man roster.
The team tried to let Harper get past the knee issues by giving him the last five games off, but the swelling and fluid in his knee did not subside enough that he could get back on the field. As a result, Harper will now get at least 10 more days off while on the DL. He'll be eligible to return on June 11.
"If the club felt like he would be ready to come back in three or four or five days, we wouldn't have DL'd him," Johnson said. "But I think in talking to Bryce, we've got to get by this, where it's not a recurring thing, he's not going out there and playing 80 percent. Because his legs are just as much a part of his game. Taking that extra base, running hard, I don't want to handicap him that way, and the chance of him getting injured further. So everybody looking at it said that's the best thing to do for him.
"And with that in mind, at this point we could use the arm for the next two days. Then we'll address on Monday where we go from there."
Harper lands on the DL 19 days after running into the right field wall at Dodger Stadium. He attempted to return to action twice after the wall collision, but suffered setbacks both times and needed to get more time off. Johnson was asked if, in retrospect, the Nats should have just put Harper on the DL right off the bat after he collided with the wall.
"Well, you just don't know how bad the injuries were," Johnson said. "He felt all right, really he felt pretty good the next day. He had some bruises but didn't have any swelling. And when he went back to playing and he dove for a ball and then he slid head-first (last Sunday against the Phillies), I think it was probably a sensitive area and he exacerbated it by pounding on it more.
"So he felt good enough and he wanted to play, and he knows his body better than anybody. But I think it was probably a little injury and diving for a ball in right field and then going head-first into third didn't help it."