An impressive Nationals' victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday was overshadowed by the fact that Washington ace Stephen Strasburg was pulled from the game after just 1 1/3 innings with discomfort in his neck and trapezius area.
One day after Strasburg was pulled, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo joined the Sports Junkies and expressed his level of concern for his ace.
"Every time you walk off the mound after one inning, we have some concern. We've got to get this thing right," Rizzo said. "We have to figure out what's going on there and get him right."
Strasburg is set to get an MRI on his neck and trap area. Rizzo was then asked on a scale of 1-10 how worried he is about the 2019 World Series MVP moving forward, and his answer is a tad concerning for Nationals fans.
"I'm going to go 7.5 on the concern level, just because I want to make sure I see the MRI," Rizzo said. "Then I'll have more answers for everybody."
However, Rizzo is not concerned that the 32-year-old injured his forearm or elbow area, which is good news for the Nationals considering Strasburg was seen trying to shake it out following a leadoff walk to Ronald Acuña to begin the game.
Rizzo said that Strasburg felt pain-free during warmups, but did admit that he didn't have a great pregame bullpen. The Nats GM quickly made it clear that such is not uncommon and oftentimes starters throw great games after rough pregame throwing sessions.
Strasburg exited the game in the second inning after a comebacker hit his left glove/hand area, but the right-hander was in some obvious discomfort before then. He only reached 90 mph seven times out of 30 pitches on Tuesday, with some of his attempted fastballs registering as change-ups due to the decrease in velocity. Strasburg has been averaging 92.8 mph on his fastball this season.
"You saw stuff with that Acuña at-bat right away and you knew something was off," Rizzo said.
Part of the reason Strasburg's velocity was lower was that he was tweaking with his mechanics in order to pitch through the pain he was in.
"Oftentimes with Stras, it's fundamentals and mechanically driven when he comes out of his chute and doesn't throw well," Rizzo said. "But this one had a little bit different flavor to it. It was mechanically and you could see there was something not right with him."
Strasburg wanted to stay in the game, but Rizzo said that was something he and Nationals manager Davey Martinez did not want to take the chance with.
"He wanted to stay in the game, but when your mechanics break down ... when something doesn't feel right, you alter your mechanics to do something different, you often hurt something else," Rizzo said. "Davey wasn't going to take that risk letting him pitch through something that was uncomfortable for him."
Tuesday's game marked the second time this season Strasburg was pulled early due to injury. His start against the Braves was just his third in a row after spending over one month on the Injured List.
The Nationals won't know how long Strasburg will be sidelined until they get the MRI results, but Rizzo is confident the team will be able to handle it regardless of what the diagnosis is.
"He's a big part of our rotation, obviously, and we need to get him right. When he's on the mound, he's as good as anybody," Rizzo said. "So we just got to get him on the mound and get him on the mound healthy and keep him out there consistently. He's going to get an MRI. We'll see what that shows and we'll take it from there. We've been down this road before. We will handle it."