Stephen Strasburg’s latest abbreviated start was the result of a new (though potentially related) physical ailment to the upper right back discomfort that plagued him earlier this month: Tightness in his left trapezius muscle.
Manager Matt Williams revealed this newest injury to reporters in Cincinnati following the Nationals’ 5-2 loss Friday night, but offered no definitive plan moving forward.
“We don’t know at this point,” Williams said. “We’ll have to see how he is tomorrow and evaluate. I don’t know, it’s the other side. We’ll see what he shows up with tomorrow.”
Strasburg totaled only 16 pitches at Great American Ball Park before departing with head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz, clearly in discomfort as he threw in the bottom of the second inning. He faced five batters in total, giving up an opposite-field solo homer to Joey Votto and a single to Todd Frazier in the first inning, then walking Brayan Peña on five pitches to open the second.
During that Peña at-bat, Strasburg’s mechanics looked out of whack. He fell off the mound well more to the left than normal, then tried to maneuver his neck and shoulders after multiple pitches.
“He came out of the bullpen good,” Williams said. “He went through the first inning good. Joey hit a 97 mph fastball down and in for a homer, and it was a pretty good pitch. But then the second inning, he went out there and it started to tighten up on him.”
This ailment comes 24 days after Strasburg departed a start against the Marlins with discomfort under his right shoulder blade.
“This is new,” Williams said. “It’s new. It’s left side. It’s in his neck. So we’ll have to address it. Nothing as of right now until tomorrow.”
Whether the two ailments are connected or not, this much is obvious: Strasburg has not been himself for a good month. He has now failed to complete the fourth inning in four of his last five starts, giving up 20 runs (18 earned) and 26 hits in only 16 innings.
Overall, Strasburg now has a 6.55 ERA in 10 starts.
MORE NATIONALS: Strasburg leaves after 16 pitches, Reds beat Nationals 5-2