Conceding their once-dominant right-hander couldn’t continue to pitch through the worst prolonged slump of his career, the Nationals placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with neck tightness.
Fellow right-hander Taylor Hill was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse to take Strasburg’s roster spot and provide a fresh arm out of the bullpen for Saturday’s game in Cincinnati.
The transaction comes less than 24 hours after Strasburg departed his start at Great American Ball Park one batter into the second inning, complaining of tightness in his left trapezius muscle. That was merely the latest evidence of Stasburg’s discomfort while pitching, something that has come to define his last month on the mound.
Strasburg has failed to complete four innings in four of his last five starts, one of which was cut short by discomfort under his right shoulder blade, two others by ineffective performance. Overall, he’s now 3-5 with a 6.55 ERA in 10 starts this season, giving up five more hits per nine innings than he did in his career prior to 2015.
Through it all, Strasburg has not shown traditional signs of injury. His fastball has averaged 95 mph in each of his last six starts, identical to his last three seasons, suggesting no physical issue with his shoulder or elbow.
Now, the Nationals will have at least two weeks to figure out what has caused Strasburg’s neck and upper back problems, prompting altered mechanics and poor command.
This is the fourth time Strasburg has gone on the DL in his career. He missed two weeks in 2010 with shoulder inflammation, then tore his elbow ligament later that summer and missed 12 months following Tommy John surgery. He also missed 15 days with a strained lat muscle in 2013.
Hill joins the Nationals’ bullpen after going 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA in nine starts at Syracuse this season. The 26-year-old right-hander made his major-league debut last year, posting a 9.00 ERA in three games (including one start).
Taylor Jordan, who tossed 4 2/3 innings in emergency relief Friday, would appear to be the most-likely candidate to take Strasburg’s rotation spot for the immediate future.