Wednesday featured a nightmare situation for the Nationals, as right-hander Stephen Strasburg left after just 2 1/3 innings with an apparent injury.
Strasburg was starting his first game since returning from the disabled list with right elbow soreness. He came back quickly without even needing a minor league rehab assignment. But after getting Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz to strike out in the third inning, Strasburg winced in pain. Pitching coach Mike Maddux and head trainer Paul Lessard emerged from the dugout to check on him. Manager Dusty Baker followed.
Strasburg then left the game with his glove covering his face. He walked straight into the clubhouse, as the crowd at Nationals Park fell silent.
Strasburg had Tommy John surgery in September of 2010 and up until last month had not experienced any elbow issues in the time since. But after he gave up nine earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings against the Rockies on Aug. 17 - the shortest start of his career - Strasburg complained of discomfort in his elbow.
The Nationals did a variety of tests and determined the problem was in a different area than his ulnar collateral ligament, which was repaired in the Tommy John surgery. The team said on several occasions his elbow was structurally sound.
Strasburg also had an MRI on his elbow in May as part of a thorough physical exam. The Nationals had him checked out by multiple doctors before signing him to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension.
Strasburg looked sharp early in his return to the mound on Wednesday. He hit 97 miles per hour twice in the first inning, a perfect frame. He also tossed a scoreless second inning. In the third he started showing signs of discomfort by wincing after his pitches and clinching his fist.
Strasburg threw one pitch, a changeup, that sailed over catcher Wilson Ramos' glove and to the backstop. It was after the next one, an 84 mile per hour slider, his 42nd pitch of the night, that the coaching staff came out to talk with him.
Strasburg, 28, is 15-4 with a 3.60 ERA on the season.
More on this story as it develops...
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