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Strasburg hopes chiropractor can fix shoulder

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Strasburg hopes chiropractor can fix shoulder

The sight of Stephen Strasburg grimacing after throwing several pitches Tuesday night, then being visited on the mound by a trainer, then being pulled after three ragged but hardly awful innings could not have been comforting to the Nationals or to fans who understandably fear the worst anytime something appears to physically be wrong with the right-hander.

Strasburg and the Nationals, though, gave the impression after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Marlins that this latest ailment — discomfort under his shoulder blade — can be corrected with chiropractic work and isn’t a true shoulder or elbow injury that would be fair greater cause for concern.

“I think it’s something where I just need to get an adjustment, or something like that,” Strasburg said. “The best way I can put it: You’re driving a car fast over speed bumps. The irritation kind of rattles the cage a little bit.”

Strasburg is scheduled to visit a chiropractor Wednesday, something he admitted he’s done in the past. For now, the Nationals do not appear to believe this is an injury that would require a trip to the disabled list.

“I don’t think we make that decision yet,” manager Matt Williams said. “He’s perfectly fine otherwise. He’s had issues in the past with feeling something in his low back, or something like that. I wouldn’t imagine that’s serious, but we’ll have to see what the results tell us.”

Whatever the severity of this ailment proves to be, Strasburg clearly didn’t look comfortable on the mound Tuesday night. After waiting out a 28-minute rain delay before the game could commence, he grimaced several times after throwing pitches in the first inning, then again in the top of the second.

Strasburg said later the discomfort was noticeable when he tried to throw pitches away to right-handed batters, in to left-handed batters. It wasn’t an issue when throwing to the other side of the plate. He admitted feeling this during his last start in New York, though it was worse this time.

“It just kind of caused me to alter my mechanics a little too much, and [I] lost some command from it,” he said.

That side effect — altered mechanics — is what concerned the Nationals the most. If Strasburg was trying to compensate for the shoulder blade issue, he could cause more strain on his shoulder joint or elbow, and that could lead to a significant injury.

Williams and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz did come to the mound to check on Strasburg after he bounced a throw to first base on a routine sacrifice bunt attempt in the top of the second. He insisted them he could continue to pitch, and they acquiesced. (Strasburg wound up retiring three straight batters to end the inning.)

[MORE NATIONALS: Bullpen holds after Strasburg's early exit, but Nats fall]

Strasburg faced five more batters in the top of the third, issuing a walk and allowing a groundball single but otherwise keeping the Marlins from scoring again. But after he returned to the dugout, having thrown 64 pitches, he was told his night was over.

“His pitch count got really high, got up there, and he was more and more uncomfortable with it as he went through the last inning,” Williams said. “Then when he got back in there, we decided we’re not gonna take that chance.”

There weren’t many obvious indications of Strasburg being less than 100 percent healthy. His fastball averaged 95 mph, his changeup 88 mph, his curveball 80 mph (all perfectly in line with his typical velocity so far this season).

His command, though, wasn’t as crisp as it usually is. And his physical reactions to certain pitches suggested something wasn’t right.

“His stuff was electric,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. “He wasn’t hitting his spots — that kind of was a telltale sign — but man, he came out firing bullets. … The most important thing for us is we get him healthy, and not do any more damage than hopefully was done.”

The next step for Strasburg is unclear at this point. He’ll be examined by the chiropractor on Wednesday. At some point, the Nationals will have to decide whether he’s cleared to make his next scheduled start (Monday at Arizona).

“I think it’s probably just something that [for] one reason or another probably creeps up in there sometimes,” he said. “I’ve just got to get it fixed and hopefully get back out there for the next one.”

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Max Scherzer takes the next step toward returning to the mound for the Nationals

Max Scherzer takes the next step toward returning to the mound for the Nationals

BALTIMORE -- Max Scherzer emerged from the visitor's dugout about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday and walked to left field. A bullpen catcher, director of athletic training, Paul Lessard, and a couple of other watchful eyes went with him.

Scherzer progressively backed up while throwing in the outfield. By the end, he was roughly 90 feet from the catcher and throwing with clear effort.

The nightly news will not lead with the development. However, it's progress for Scherzer. Manager Davey Martinez said Scherzer came out of the session -- a little further apart, a little more intense than Tuesday's version -- feeling well. 

So, what's next? Thursday, Scherzer could throw a "light" bullpen session in Atlanta. that will determine if he pitches Sunday. Scherzer (mid-back strain) is first eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Saturday.

The Nationals have their rotation for the series against Atlanta otherwise set: Stephen Strasburg on Thursday, Patrick Corbin on Friday, and Anibal Sanchez on Saturday. If Scherzer can't pitch Sunday, Austin Voth would be on the turn. 

Washington entered play Wednesday night six games behind first-place Atlanta, which lost Wednesday afternoon to Milwaukee. The Braves lost two of three to the Brewers, dropping a series for the first time since time June 4-6. Washington can creep as close as 5 1/2 games back before the four-game series begins.

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Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

After being placed on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back strain, Max Scherzer is supposed to come off of the IL by Saturday in time for the Nationals' third game of their series against the Atlanta Braves.

When he will actually pitch, is another question.

On Tuesday, Scherzer reportedly told manager Davey Martinez he's feeling "a lot better." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo followed up those comments during his spot on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

"If he’s capable of pitching he will," Rizzo said.

Rizzo told the Junkies that he will find out more information about Scherzer's status prior to Wednesday's final game against the Baltimore Orioles. He said he, in conjunction with the Nationals' medical personnel, made the decision to place Scherzer on the 10-day IL.

“He was incapable of pitching the way Max Scherzer pitches so we all decided to put him on the IL," Rizzo said.

Scherzer was scheduled to start against the Braves this weekend, but the decision will depend on how Scherzer feels.

‘We’re still in July," Rizzo said. "Guarantee you this: If this is September and we needed this win, you couldn’t keep Max off the mound. Sometimes I have to be the adult in the room and just say, ‘sorry, buddy, not this time.”

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