Stephen Strasburg just didn’t have it Tuesday night.
But, he and manager Davey Martinez say there's no reason to be concerned after the Cardinals' broadcast caught Strasburg rubbing his shoulder in the tunnel behind the visitor’s dugout between innings
The Nationals’ right-hander had a rocky performance against the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits, five walks and three home runs with three strikeouts in four innings as Washington fell 14-3. It was only his second start of the season after missing nearly all of 2020 with carpal tunnel neuritis in his pitching hand.
“Mechanics were a little off [but] we talked to him, he didn’t complain about anything,” Martinez said on a Zoom call. “For us, it’s part of the process. He hasn’t pitched in a year. We gotta get him out there, gotta stretch him out, gotta build him up. But he was just a tad off today. His last outing was good, today wasn’t as sharp. So he’ll have four or five days to work with [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and get him back on track.”
Neither Martinez nor Strasburg was pleased that a camera was directed at the tunnel while he was down there. The skipper said he was “perturbed” that the shot made its way onto the broadcast, which prompted speculation that Strasburg was dealing with an injury.
“I think it’s a joke, to be honest, that they shoot in the tunnel because there’s gotta be some sort of safe place in the stadium,” Strasburg said. “I’m 32 years old, I’ve been doing this a long time and there’s been plenty of other starts whether something’s not feeling right and whether you treat yourself or have a trainer come treat you, it’s just part of the business.
“There should be some sort of privacy because people don’t watch the games on TV to watch some sort of spy camera watching what the player’s doing in the tunnel.”
Tuesday’s start marked only the fourth time in Strasburg’s career that he’s allowed eight or more runs in a start. However, what made the outing so uncharacteristic for the 2019 World Series MVP was his velocity. His fastball averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 in his first start. Statcast clocked his fastest pitch of the game at 92.9 mph after he touched 94.6 while throwing six shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves last week.
Strasburg attributed the decline in speed to a lack of command. Still readjusting to the five-day pitching routine, he said that he held himself back in order to better locate his pitches — particularly his fastball.
“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.”