LOS ANGELES - As the Nationals attempt to finish off the National League Division Series this afternoon, Stephen Strasburg continues to attempt to return from an elbow injury and pitch for his team at some point later in the postseason. But Strasburg's road back to game action remains littered with speed bumps and potholes, and he hit one of them Monday while throwing in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium.
Strasburg was scheduled to throw 35 pitches, building off the 25-pitch session he had three days earlier at Nationals Park. But according to manager Dusty Baker, the right-hander felt "a little discomfort" around pitch No. 30 or 31 and cut short the session.
"He was throwing the ball pretty good - very good, actually," Baker said. "But we said if he felt anything, then just shut it down."
Baker insisted this wasn't a significant setback.
"You know, just discomfort," the manager said. "I mean, you ever have discomfort when you write something, and your hands get a little tight and then you just quit and take a little break and then go back to it tomorrow? ... No, I'm not worried."
To that end, Strasburg was back throwing off flat ground before Game 4 today, playing long toss catch in right field before batting practice.
Strasburg still faces long odds to make it back in time to pitch for the Nationals again this season. If they advance to the National League Championship Series, he would need to be available no later than Oct. 19 to start Game 4 of that series. That gives him only eight days to continue to build up his arm in the bullpen, face live hitters in some capacity and have enough stamina to be able to make something resembling a full-length start in a postseason game.
The Nationals, though, will continue to give Strasburg (who has been out since Sept. 7 with a strained flexor mass near his right elbow) the opportunity, provided he doesn't experience anything beyond the mild discomfort he felt Monday.