NEW YORK - Though his return from the disabled list earlier this week raised some red flags, Stephen Strasburg will make his next scheduled start for the Nationals early next week.
Strasburg, who returned from a month-long stint on the DL due to a neck injury and lasted only four innings against the Phillies with diminished velocity, threw a between-starts bullpen session this afternoon and emerged feeling well, according to manager Davey Martinez.
Strasburg threw roughly 40 pitches during the mound session. Martinez said he’ll take his next turn in the rotation, which hasn’t been announced but is expected to come Monday at Philadelphia.
“He said he felt good,” Martinez said. “So he’s scheduled to pitch when his turn comes up again. But he said he felt fine.”
Strasburg has made only two starts over the last 2 1/2 months, sidelined initially with a shoulder injury that later was thought to be connected to the pinched nerve in the right-hander’s neck that sent him back to the DL following his shaky return July 20 against the Braves.
His latest return, Wednesday night against the Phillies, didn’t go well, either. He allowed five runs in four innings, needing 84 pitches to reach that early juncture of the game. More worrisome was the fact Strasburg’s fastball velocity dropped from 95 mph in the first inning to 91-92 mph in his final inning.
Strasburg afterward insisted there was nothing physically wrong, that he simply ran out of gas after returning from the DL without having made a traditional rehab start or two in the minors.
“I think it’s just endurance,” the pitcher said after the game. “Hopefully that’s what it is.”
There was no concrete way to determine where Strasburg stands endurance-wise during today’s bullpen session, but Martinez said he told the staff he had “just typical soreness that he typically has after he starts.”
The Nationals will watch Strasburg closely during his next start and try to stay in constant communication with him as he navigates his way through what they hope will be a longer and more effective start.
“We’ve got to keep an eye on him, make sure when he starts hitting that peak where he looks like he’s getting tired, we’ve got to take care of him,” Martinez said. “But that’s conversations between him, me and (pitching coach) Derek Lilliquist throughout the game. Make sure he’s right where he needs to be. And if he does get tired, fatigued, then we need to get him out.”
Update: The Nationals didn’t have any trouble getting themselves up for their series against the Phillies earlier this week. They seem to be having a bit more trouble getting themselves up for tonight’s opener against the Mets. With four innings in the books, they trail 1-0, which isn’t bad in and of itself. Gio Gonzalez gave up a first-inning run via a leadoff single that fell in front of Bryce Harper (who backed off the ball and didn’t attempt to make a play on what looked like a playable ball), a stolen base after a cross-up with Matt Wieters and an RBI single by Wilmer Flores.
The Nats lineup, on the other hand, has produced two singles - and nothing else - in four innings against Jason Vargas, who entered with a 7.67 ERA. Those two singles came from Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto to open the top of the second but were immediately followed by three outs that didn’t advance either runner. Not a whole lot going on here so far tonight for the visitors.