Strasburg leaves game in fifth inning with injury

PHILADELPHIA | Stephen Strasburg, who was in the middle of one of his best starts of the season, instead has stopped the collective heartbeat of the Nationals’ organization once again.

Strasburg left Saturday’s game against the Phillies, which was shaping up to be one of his best starts of the year, with a strained flexor tendon in his forearm. He will have an MRI in Washington tomorrow, and the Nationals will decide how to proceed with their vaunted rookie after that.

“On the changeup that we all saw, he felt a little discomfort in his forearm,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He strained it. It was a strain in his forearm. We’re going to view it, and Monday, we’ll get back to you with all your questions. We have no information for you right now. He’s going to have an MRI, and that’s it.”

Strasburg came out of Saturday’s game against the Phillies in the middle of an at-bat against Domonic Brown. He threw a 1-1 changeup to Brown, winced in pain and shook his hand. Strasburg motioned to the dugout, and manager JIm Riggleman, pitching coach Steve McCatty and trainer Lee Kuntz ran to the mound.

By the time they got there, though, Strasburg said he felt nothing in his arm and was petitioning to stay in the game. Riggleman would have none of it.

“I think the only person we would have probably said, ‘OK, we’ll let you throw a few,’ is probably Livan (Hernandez), maybe one of the more veteran guys who’s been through some of these things before,” Riggleman said. “With our younger guys, we’d be a little bit more conservative about it.”

The flexor tendon in the forearm is what connects a pitcher’s fingers to his muscles that help him grip the ball. Strasburg was throwing more changeups - a pitch that requires a firmer grip - than usual on Saturday, and the pitch to Brown was a changeup.

The Nationals will have to see how severe Strasburg’s injury is, but they’ve been extremely cautious with him, so it seems likely he’ll miss at least his next start, if not more time.

Riggleman said he initially though Strasburg was just shaking his arm loose, but knew it was something else when he did it again. Strasburg had not felt any discomfort before the pitch to Brown, his 56th of the night.

To that point, Strasburg was putting together one of his most dominant starts of the year. He’d struck out six in 4 1/3 innings, giving up a run on just two hits. His changeup was sharp against the Phillies’ lefty-heavy lineup, and he threw a curveball that broke so tight, it had Placido Polanco diving out of the way at one point before it broke back over the plate for a strike, never forcing Ivan Rodriguez to move his glove.

“He got all three pitches working today,” Rodriguez said. “The curveball was good. He threw some very good breaking balls to Polanco, freezing him once and getting him to hit a ground ball to shortstop with the other. He struck (Shane) Victorino with a 3-2 changeup, and struck out Victorino again with a 3-2 breaking ball. That tells you how good he is, man.”

The injury took something away from the Nationals’ 8-1 over the Phillies, which was one of the more complete games the team has played all year. Scott Olsen will pitch the series finale for Washington tomorrow, and we’ll hopefully have more information on Strasburg in the morning.