Stephen Strasburg reminded all of Major League Baseball how dominant he can be when he took the mound last week and threw six scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves over his first start of the 2021 season.
But on Tuesday, Strasburg was unable to replicate that success as he was pulled in the fourth inning of a blowout loss to the St. Louis Cardinals after allowing eight runs (seven earned), eight hits, three home runs and just three strikeouts.
Part of the reason Strasburg struggled on Tuesday was his fastball velocity was a few miles-per-hour slower than his regular stuff, as the ace averaged 90.6 mph on the pitch and was unable to top 93 mph the entire night. Speaking on the Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is not concerned about Strasburg's dipped velocity moving forward.
"The stamina is just not built up. He's flashed 94 and 95 [mph] this season, so we know it's in there," Rizzo said. "It's often these early starts where velocity dips a little bit. You just have to work your way through it and build that endurance and arm strength."
Strasburg was asked about his decreased speed on Tuesday night and attributed it to his lack of command of the fastball more than anything else.
“I think it was more of a product of trying to slow things down, unfortunately to the point where I could just locate a fastball,” Strasburg said. “I understand that extra velocity helps, it helps [increase] your margin for error. But I think for me it’s just like trying to execute the pitch and for whatever reason I had to try and get it done at that speed and just didn’t work out tonight.”
Rizzo also reminded everyone that besides the fact that it's still very early into the season, Strasburg is also coming off a longer layoff than most pitchers after he missed most of the 2020 season with a hand injury, one that required him to have carpal tunnel surgery this past August.
"Let's not forget Stras missed almost the whole season last year.," Rizzo said. "These guys are building up arm strength, building up stamina and building up endurance to get through this grind. Sometimes when you miss a full entire season, it takes a little bit longer to get to those points."
Midway through the third inning of Tuesday night's game, cameras showed Strasburg in the tunnel rubbing his shoulder -- leading some to question whether the pitcher was injured.
Following the game, both Strasburg and manager Davey Martinez were upset about the camera incident but insisted that the 2019 World Series MVP is healthy. Rizzo confirmed on Wednesday that Strasburg was feeling "good" leaving the ballpark yesterday and the team will "see how he feels today."
Tuesday night was an evening to forget for Strasburg. But he, Martinez, and Rizzo are all not concerned that one bad outing will lead to a flurry of them moving forward.
"Every time Stras starts I look forward to it because I think we're going to win that game," Rizzo said. "So when he pitches, I feel good about it."
For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington, weekdays from 6-10 a.m.