Strasburg scratched, Fedde to start, Soto awaiting results

The Nationals had to take the field opening night without their star slugger in the lineup. Now they’ll have to take the field tonight without their World Series MVP on the mound.

Stephen Strasburg has been scratched from his scheduled season debut against the Yankees due to a nerve issue in his right hand and thumb, manager Davey Martinez revealed this afternoon. Erick Fedde, who was supposed to serve as the long man in the Nationals bullpen, will start in Strasburg’s place.

So, no Juan Soto (still awaiting two negative test results for COVID-19) for the second straight game. And now, no Strasburg to face the Yankees’ daunting lineup.

It’s not the kind of opening weekend the defending champs envisioned.

“Talk about those bumpy roads, right?” Martinez said with a laugh. “I keep telling these guys: We’ll get through it. We’ve just got to stick together. We knew we were going to have difficulties. It’s part of the game. We’ve just got to hang in there. Hopefully this is no major issue for Stras, and he’s back soon.”

Strasburg-Dealing-White-sidebar.jpgStrasburg, who referred to the injury as a “nerve impingement” in his wrist, said he first started noticing problems several weeks ago. He would wake up at night, and his hand would feel like it had fallen asleep. He was able to pitch through it, but he noticed it getting worse during his handful of intrasquad and exhibition starts during a rushed summer training.

“It got to the point where I didn’t have the same feeling in my hand holding the ball, and it was affecting my ability to command the baseball the way I’m accustomed to,” he said. “It’s something I feel like if I take some time now to get that feeling back to normal, I can be back out there much sooner, instead of trying to just gut it out at this point.”

Strasburg received what he hinted was not his first cortisone injection in the area Friday, and he already feels improvement. He made it clear he’s not “extremely concerned” by the injury and doesn’t believe it will keep him out very long.

But in the next breath, Strasburg admitted it can be dangerous to try to pitch through seemingly minor ailments, because “it can lead to worse things.”

Combine that recognition with the knowledge that the 2020 season is only scheduled for 60 games and presents plenty of daunting challenges to be completed in the first place, and Strasburg admits he probably won’t push himself to get back on the mound as quickly as he might during normal times.

“To be frank, this season’s kind of a mess to begin with,” he said. “I’ve got to think about big picture here. It’s my career, and I know that, in the long run, it’s important to try to make as many starts as you can. By putting yourself in a compromising position now, I don’t know if it’s really the best way moving forward. It is what it is. But I’m pretty optimistic that it won’t keep me out very long.”

Soto, meanwhile, remains quarantined in his local residence, still waiting to be cleared to rejoin the team after receiving word Thursday morning he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Martinez said everyone on the team who was tested Thursday received negative results today - “everybody’s good” - but he couldn’t answer definitively when asked if it’s possible Soto could be back in the lineup by the end of the weekend. (If he received word today his last test was negative, he could in theory find out Sunday morning a second test taken at least 24 hours later was also negative, clearing him to play.)

“We’re waiting on a test result, and then we’ll see what happens,” Martinez said. “I talked to him today. Of course he wants to be with his teammates. He’s down. But he’s doing everything he can to stay ready. Apparently, yesterday he was standing in front of the TV with a bat during the game and taking pitches. Obviously, I miss him, for sure. His teammates miss him. We’ve got to do everything we can to keep him (feeling) positive.”

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