Stephen Strasburg’s nerve injury remains a conundrum.
Mike Rizzo said on The Junkies on Wednesday morning Strasburg will see a nerve specialist Thursday for a second opinion. The Nationals have conducted “nerve testing throughout his body” in an effort to resolve the problem which placed him on the 10-day injured list last Saturday.
“I’m not sure where we’re at with the rest of the season,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to obviously, with this truncated season, we’re going to be ultra-cautious with these players. Starlin Castro, the same thing. And Stras. Really, everybody we’ve got on our roster. We’re going to take it very carefully and cautiously. We want to knock this thing out and get this thing behind us. Then Stras would have to ramp back up after about two weeks off. He’d have to ramp back up. We’ll see about the remainder of this season. But we will take it very cautiously with him.”
Strasburg, 32, presumably would need at least a week, if not two, to get ready to pitch again. If he is able to pitch after coming off the injured list, that means he could be back around Sept. 1, which would give him a full month of starts before the expanded postseason begins. The looming question for the Nationals is how much they want to push a player who signed a seven-year, $245 million contract in the offseason. If he returned in early September, Strasburg could make about six starts before the playoffs. Is that worth it?
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The Nationals are also dealing with a mystery. They don’t know how Strasburg’s nerve problem -- which is the result of a wrist impingement -- came about.
“It’s a repetition injury,” Rizzo said. “I think it affects him when he throws certain pitches like his curveball, which is a snapping motion with his hand and wrist. I really don’t have an answer for that. About how he got it. It’s one of those repetition injuries over the years that has grabbed him this year. We’re going to get the experts to weigh in before we make any diagnosis or timetable.”
Mentioning the curveball is notable. Strasburg changed how he pitches over the last two seasons when his fastball velocity dropped and he thought throwing sliders adversely affected his forearm. So, he turned to his curveball as a primary off-speed pitch. He threw curveballs 19.6 percent of the time in 2018 before raising that percentage to 30.6 in 2019. He’s thrown it 32.9 percent of the time in his two brief starts this season.