In setting their Opening Day roster this morning, the Nationals officially placed six players on the injured list, including Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg (thoracic outlet syndrome), Cade Cavalli (Tommy John surgery), Tanner Rainey (Tommy John surgery) and Victor Arano (right shoulder strain) all were placed on the 60-day IL. Those moves cleared up four spots on the 40-man roster, which went to the four players who made the club off minor-league deals: Chad Kuhl, Michael Chavis, Anthony Banda and Hobie Harris.
Carter Kieboom (right shoulder impingement) and Israel Pineda (right finger fracture) were placed on the 10-day IL, though neither is expected to be ready to return in such little time. Kieboom, who is still coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, has only been able to DH in minor league spring games. Pineda, who was struck by a foul ball in early March, has resumed throwing but was not yet hitting when camp concluded.
Though Strasburg’s inclusion on the 60-day IL was no surprise, the transaction does underscore the right-hander’s current predicament. Unable to throw off a mound without discomfort since making his one and only start last season, he is currently not participating in any baseball activities.
General manager Mike Rizzo said he met in person Wednesday with Strasburg, whose locker remains full of gear even though he was not present at spring training and won’t be at the ballpark for the season opener.
“He’s not going to be here today,” Rizzo said. “He felt he didn’t want to distract from the Opening Day festivities. He’s just taking it day by day and trying to just get healthy.”
It remains to be seen just how healthy Strasburg can get at this point. Since signing a seven-year, $245 million contract after winning World Series MVP honors in 2019, he has made only seven starts, undergoing surgery in 2020 for carpal tunnel neuritis and in 2021 for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Rizzo said the rehab process for Strasburg right now is “just simple rest until he regains strength and mobility.”
There remains an open question whether Strasburg will ever be able to pitch again. Because his contract runs through the 2026 season, he would need to remain an active player (even if only on the IL) to earn his full salary, unless he and the Nationals can work out some kind of financial arrangement.
Pitching, though, sounds secondary to other objectives for now.
“He needs to rehab the injury,” Rizzo said. “If nothing more, just to play with his children, get back to regular life. He’s going to rehab the injury, and he’s going to take this day by day.”
Cavalli will miss the entire season after he suffered a complete tear of his elbow ligament during an exhibition start against the Mets two weeks ago. The rookie right-hander had the ligament replaced last week in Texas and has since returned to West Palm Beach to begin what should be a 12-to-18-month rehab program.
“He’s a guy we’re going to have to pull back, 'cause he’s all excited,” Rizzo said. “He got back to West Palm on Sunday, and he’s been working out diligently, doing as much as he can in the early stages of the Tommy John.”
Sean Doolittle doesn’t show up on the IL despite his continued rehab from an internal brace procedure in his elbow last summer. That’s because Doolittle re-signed with the Nationals on a minor league deal and has not needed to be activated from that yet. The left-hander is here for Opening Day but will head back to West Palm Beach in the coming days to continue his rehab.