Strasburg, Nationals describe DL stint as precautionary

BALTIMORE - Stephen Strasburg didn't think the stiff elbow he's been experiencing lately was significant enough to keep him from pitching tonight, but the Nationals told their ace right-hander not to chance it, preferring to have him make what they hope will be a brief stint on the disabled list before returning for the stretch run.

"They thought it was best interest to let it recover now, instead of trying to gut it out and essentially be not available later on," Strasburg said this afternoon at Camden Yards. "It's frustrating, but it's just part of the game. You go through these little blips and stuff, and I think with what I've been working on here, it's going to help me in the long run."

Strasburg, who officially was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow stiffness, said he has been dealing with the issue since roughly the All-Star break. It doesn't bother him so much during games but rather in between starts.

Stephen Strasburg gray pitching.jpg"The recovery in between was getting more difficult, becoming more of a challenge," he said. "I just felt like I was losing range of motion and wasn't able to get that back between starts."

Owner of a 12-0 record and 2.62 ERA at the All-Star break, Strasburg is 0-3 with a 14.66 ERA in his last three starts. He was roughed up for a career-high nine runs in only 1 2/3 innings Wednesday afternoon in Colorado, raising questions about his performance and whether his struggles might be health-related.

Strasburg didn't inform manager Dusty Baker of the elbow stiffness until Saturday in Atlanta, but general manager Mike Rizzo said the club had been "monitoring it for a while" and that he noticed a lack of command in his most recent start.

"He looked like he was throwing the ball fine," Rizzo said. "To me, it wasn't a matter of stuff, meaning velocity, movement, that type of thing. It was more location. When you have some inflammation, when you're not perfect, that's the first thing that suffers: your location. And I think that's what he suffered from."

Strasburg tried to talk his way into making tonight's start against the Orioles, but the Nationals felt the cautious route was more prudent.

"I said, 'No, let's check it out. We got a long way to go,' " Baker said. "I told him he hadn't won anything yet. But we've got to look at the big picture on this. He's going to be around for a long time, and hopefully he'll be good in September and hopefully October."

Rizzo said Strasburg hasn't had any new MRIs taken of his arm, citing the one he had in April before signing his $175 million contract extension as "clean." Asked if he's confident the elbow is structurally sound, the GM simply replied: "Yes."

The Nationals' current standing in the National League East - they enter tonight up 8 1/2 games on the Marlins - and the timing of the calendar may have helped make the decision to shelve Strasburg for now a little easier.

"I think if we were later in the season, and we had to have him pitch, he could pitch for us, and he would pitch for us," Rizzo said.

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