Nats place Harper on DL, other injury updates
ATLANTA — An MRI of Stephen Strasburg's back and right side today revealed a Grade 1 strain of the lat muscle, according to the Nationals, who said it's still too soon to know whether the right-hander will make his next scheduled start.
Strasburg, who was pulled from last night's start against the Braves after two innings with tightness in his oblique area, flew to Washington today and was examined by team medical director Wiemi Douoguih. For now, the Nationals do not plan to place him on the disabled list, choosing instead to wait a couple of days and see how he feels when he next attempts to throw.
The Nationals have some wiggle room to work with here, because they could push Strasburg's next start back an extra two days (to June 8 against the Twins) without asking teammates to pitch on short rest. So a decision doesn't need to be made until Monday or Tuesday at the earliest.
"We'll see how he feels," manager Davey Johnson said prior to tonight's game at Turner Field. "We have that off day [Monday] so we could push him back. If he's not having any discomfort and it's not grabbing him, he wouldn't miss a start. But if it's bothering him, he'll probably miss a start and see if that eases up for him and they don't have to do anything more for that."
Strasburg's injury isn't in the exact same location as the oblique strain that landed fellow pitcher Ross Detwiler on the DL — Johnson said Detwiler's strain is lower and more to the side than Strasburg's is — so the club won't necessarily follow the same road map for both starters.
If Strasburg can't start as scheduled, Johnson could have multiple replacement options. Detwiler could be ready to return from the DL by then, which could free up Nate Karns to stay in the rotation and take Strasburg's spot. Johnson also said he would consider Craig Stammen, who retired all 12 batters faced in emergency relief of Strasburg last night, to make the start.
"Now he's really stretched out," Johnson said of Stammen. "He gave us four innings. He was very successful. His role is important, but the pitchers have also been giving me more innings, so the need for a long man is less. ... It's also who would line up that's on the roster. ... There's too many variables to be deciding who's starting where four or five days from now."
Though the Nationals haven't placed Strasburg on the DL yet, they did have to make that move today with Bryce Harper, whose lingering left knee injury hasn't healed enough to convince doctors he could return to the field with a few more days of rest.
Harper, who initially hurt himself May 13 crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium, will be eligible to come off the DL as soon as June 11. The Nationals don't have a timetable yet for his return.
"If the club felt like he would be ready to come back in three or four or five days, we wouldn't have DL'd him," Johnson said. "But I think in talking to Bryce, we've got to get by this, where it's not a recurring thing, he's not going out there and playing 80 percent. Because his legs are just as much a part of his game: taking that extra base, running hard. I don't want to handicap him that way, and [create a] chance of him getting injured further."
Harper twice attempted to return from the initial collision and wasn't able to stay in the lineup, raising the question of whether the Nationals would have been better off putting him on the DL immediately after the scary-looking play in Los Angeles.
"Well, you just don't know how bad the injuries were," Johnson said. "He felt all right, really he felt pretty good the next day. He had some bruises but didn't have any swelling. And when he went back to playing and he dove for a ball and then he slid headfirst, I think it was probably a sensitive area and he exacerbated it by pounding on it more. So he felt good enough and he wanted to play, and he knows his body better than anybody. But I think it was probably a little injury, and diving for a ball in right field and then going headfirst into third didn't help it."
The Nationals do expect to have one key player back from the DL on Tuesday: Jayson Werth. The veteran outfielder is scheduled to play nine innings tonight at Class A Potomac (his third rehab game) and then take Sunday off. If all goes well, Werth will work out on Monday and then be activated for Tuesday's home game against the Mets.