If not for the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals would be the leading story in the National League. After a disastrous 2015, the team is playing like everyone expected. Dusty Baker has fixed the clubhouse, Daniel Murphy is an MVP candidate and Stephen Strasburg is pitching like everyone expected.
At 73-50, the team is a lock for the postseason. Once they get there, the Nationals quest will be all about erasing the memories of last season and making up for lost opportunities.
Their chances may have taken a slight hit Monday. Prior to Monday’s contest against the Baltimore Orioles, the club placed Strasburg on the disabled list with an elbow injury.
#Nats recall RHP A.J. Cole from AAA & place RHP Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day DL with right elbow soreness. Cole will start Mon at BAL.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 22, 2016
Through 145 1/3 innings, Strasburg has posted a 3.59 ERA. He was struck out an incredible 179 batters this year. Strasburg previously spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a back injury.
Arm injuries are never a good thing for a pitcher, particularly one who has already experienced Tommy John surgery during his career. The Nationals, however, are playing it safe in this instance, and do not believe Strasburg’s injury is serious.
Source: Strasburg has had touch of inflammation last few GS would pitch thru if playoffs, #Nationals see as chance to get him right with DL
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 22, 2016
That sound you just heard was all of Washington D.C. breathing a huge sigh of relief. That doesn’t mean Strasburg is completely out of the woods, but it sounds as though things could be a lot worse. If Strasburg is able to return to the rotation in two weeks, the Nationals remain in great shape heading into October.
Not only that, but Strasburg’s long-term future doesn’t seem to be compromised at the moment. Though he’s a Scott Boras client, Strasburg bucked the trend by signing a massive seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals in May. He was just a few months away from becoming a free-agent.
Arm health has always been a major concern for Strasburg. The 28-year-old had perhaps the most publicized Tommy John surgery in recent memory following his exceptional rookie season.
Strasburg was able to return in 2012 to help the Nationals reach the playoffs, but was shut down once he reached his very public innings limit. The Nationals were bounced from the playoffs that season in the NLDS. Strasburg didn’t throw a single pitch during the series.
At the time, the thinking behind the shut down was that Strasburg would remain healthy in future seasons, and dominate in October as the Nationals’ young core made multiple postseasons.
That hasn’t gone exactly to plan. The Nationals failed to make the postseason in both 2013 and 2015. The team did reach October in 2014, but were bounced in the NLDS once again. In Strasburg’s seven years in Washington, he’s made just one playoff start.
That narrative could still be erased as early as this season. As long as this elbow injury isn’t serious, Strasburg should be back and ready to go by October. And if things break the right way for the Nationals, it’s possible he’ll make more than one start during the playoffs this time around.
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