Stephen Strasburg has been in the midst of arguably the worst stretch of his career. However, it turns out that he’s been pitching at less than 100 percent.
The Nationals scratched Strasburg from his scheduled start Monday and placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow injury. Strasburg admitted that he’s dealt with range of motion issues since the All-Star break and hasn’t had normal recoveries in between starts. While he refused to blame these problems for his recent struggles, the reality is that he holds a 7.63 ERA over his last six starts, which includes a 1 2/3-inning, nine-run, career-worst outing in Colorado last week.
Strasburg concedes that, as a former Tommy John surgery patient, he’s still learning how to best maintain his arm throughout the season. He plans to incorporate more flexibility training and less weight training moving forward.
“Your arm works a little bit differently when you do have a surgery like that,” Strasburg said. “I had it when I was young, so I think my body just physically was a little bit in a different spot….I am 28 now, so [I’m] probably not gonna be getting any stronger.”
The good news with Strasburg is that there doesn’t appear to be anything structurally wrong with his elbow. The Nationals haven’t revealed a timetable for his return to the rotation, but it’s sounding like he should have a shot to be back when his 15 days are up or at least close to it.
A.J. Cole filled in for Strasburg on Monday against the Orioles and hung in there, allowing four runs over seven innings while striking out eight. Interestingly, the Nationals opted for Cole over Lucas Giolito, who would have been on normal rest Monday and is coming off his best start for Triple-A Syracuse, as he struck out 10 over seven frames of one-run ball last week. Cole probably earned another shot, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Nats give Giolito another chance at some point.
One guy who doesn’t look to be an option to fill in for Strasburg is Joe Ross. Ross hasn’t pitched since early July due to a right shoulder injury, and while he’s on a throwing program, manager Dusty Baker said Monday that he’s spoken to the righty about returning as a reliever when he’s ready. The thinking is that there are only a couple weeks left in the minor league season and it might not be feasible to get Ross stretched out. The 23-year-old’s season started off promisingly, but he was really in a rut before going on the DL.
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Three Gone for A-Gone
Adrian Gonzalez entered Monday’s game against the Reds on pace for the worst power season of his career. He did his best to make up for it in one afternoon.
Gonzalez slugged three home runs and drove in a career-high eight runs in an 18-9 slugfest victory over the Reds. The first baseman hit a three-run home run off of Homer Bailey in the first inning, a solo shot off of Jumbo Diaz in the fifth and another three-run dinger off of Blake Wood in the seventh. The Dodgers had 21 hits – including seven home runs – on the day, as Corey Seager, Yasmani Grandal, Rob Segedin and Andrew Toles also hit one over the boards.
The big day pushed A-Gone’s home run total for the season to 15, which means he’s suddenly on pace for his fourth straight 20-homer season. He’s also now on pace for 91 RBI to go along with a .299 batting average.
Gonzalez had a ho-hum first three months of the season, batting .273/.349/.385 with just six home runs. Given that he turned 34 in May, it was fair to question whether the five-time All-Star’s production might be headed for a big decline. However, Gonzalez has rebounded to hit .344 with nine bombs and 35 RBI over 43 games since the beginning of July. He’s past his prime, but A-Gone looks to have something left in the tank.
Pollock Nearing Return
Things haven’t gone well for the Diamondbacks this season, and a big reason for that has been the absence of All-Star center fielder A.J. Pollock. Finally, though, it looks like they’re going to get Pollock back in their lineup soon.
Out all season with a fractured elbow, Pollock is on track to be activated from the disabled list before the end of the week. The 28-year-old hasn’t looked rusty at all while on his rehab assignment, hitting a blistering .433/.541/.733 with two homers over 37 plate appearances. Hopefully that will lead to him hitting the ground running with the D’Backs.
“He just looks free and easy,” said Hale, who has watched tape of Pollock’s rehab games. “I saw him steal a base, saw him run a ball down in the gap. Swinging, he’s been fine the whole time.”
Pollock had a big breakout season in 2015, putting up a .315/.367/.498 batting line with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, 39 stolen bases and 111 runs scored. The monster five-category campaign led to Pollock being selected in the first round in some early fantasy drafts in the spring before his arm issues cropped up.
It’s possible the D’Backs will ease Pollock into things, at least initially. He’s only played three straight days once so far while on his rehab assignment. Fantasy owners should plan on extra days off for Pollock to begin with, but the outfielder should be ready for regular duty before long.
Pollock remains a free agent in nearly 25 percent of Yahoo leagues, so be sure to check your waiver wire to make sure he hasn’t already been stashed. He could be a true difference-maker as fantasy leagues come down the home stretch.
National League Quick Hits: Steven Matz was placed on the disabled list Monday with a strained left shoulder. The Mets are hoping he’ll be ready to return around the time his 15 days are up … The Pirates on Monday signed David Freese to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2019 … Corey Seager went 4-for-5 with homer, a walk, three RBI and three runs scored in Monday’s win over the Reds … Charlie Blackmon (toe) missed a fourth straight start on Monday … Freddie Freeman (finger) homered twice and doubled in his return to the lineup Monday … Jon Lester whiffed eight over six innings of one-run ball versus the Padres on Monday … Yasmany Tomas homered again Monday versus the Braves … Scott Kazmir will be examined Tuesday in Los Angeles due to recent issues with his back and neck. He has struggled of late, lasting just 2 2/3 innings on Monday against the Reds … Jose Peraza went 4-for-6 with three runs scored in a loss to the Dodgers on Monday … Jason Heyward homered in his return to the lineup Monday following a mental break … Josh Reddick was scratched from Monday’s lineup with a sore finger that he injured while jamming it in a door when ordering room service the night before … Jameson Taillon struck out eight while yielding two runs over eight innings in a loss to the Astros on Monday … Shelby Miller could rejoin the Diamondbacks’ rotation later this week … Zack Cozart (knee, Achilles) isn’t expect to return until at least Wednesday …
American League Quick Hits: Both Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro homered twice Monday, but the Yankees still fell to the Mariners … Carlos Carrasco whiffed nine over eight shutout frames in Monday’s win over the Athletics … David Price struck out eight batters across eight shutout innings in a victory over the Rays on Monday … Kyle Seager singled and smacked a three-run homer in Monday’s win over the Yankees … Doug Fister whiffed six batters over seven shutout frames on Monday against the Pirates … Xander Bogaerts singled and launched a two-run homer in Monday’s win over the Rays … Taijuan Walker is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to start Tuesday against the Yankees … Billy Butler was placed on the concussion disabled list Monday with an injury that he suffered when he was punched by teammate Danny Valencia … Luis Valbuena could undergo season-ending surgery to repair his injured hamstring … Eduardo Rodriguez (hamstring) will throw a three-inning simulated game on Tuesday in hopes of being cleared to rejoin the Red Sox’ rotation later this week … Steven Wright (shoulder) will start Friday against the Royals if all goes well in his bullpen session Tuesday …