Posted on July 3, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
It appears that Stephen Strasburg’s stint on the DL will end up being relatively brief. Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker announced Saturday night that Strasburg will be activated from the DL on Sunday and start the team’s series finale against the Cincinnati Reds. The Nationals put Strasburg on the DL last Sunday with a sore back, but because he was placed on the DL retroactive to June 16, he’s eligible to come off at any time after missing just two starts.
Strasburg’s last start was June 15 when he gave up one run in seven innings of work against the Chicago Cubs. However, he was unable to make his next start after complaining of upper back soreness. Strasburg told reporters his back problems were a result of dislocating two ribs while lifting weights. He was able to pop the ribs back in place, but the pain in his upper back lingered. After it was clear Strasburg would miss two starts, the Nationals put him on the DL, prompting Washington to call up top prospect Lucas Giolito to make his big league debut.
Strasburg threw a bullpen Thursday and pronounced himself good to go on Sunday, although until Baker made the announcement Saturday night, the Nationals maintained that Strasburg would be a game-time decision on Sunday, with Giolito ready to start if Strasburg wasn’t ready to be activated. Giolito threw four innings against the New York Mets on Tuesday, but was forced to leave following a rain delay. The Nationals are likely to option Giolito back to the minors when Strasburg is activated Sunday.
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However, there may be a caveat to that plan. There could be some concern about Saturday night’s starter Joe Ross, whose velocity dropped like a rock during the course of Saturday’s loss to the Reds. Early in the game, Ross had his velocity in the mid 90s, but by the fifth inning he was in the high 80s. Baker, however, insists that the team is not concerned right now. “We’re looking into it, into some things. We were limiting his innings, if you hadn’t noticed. We’d skipped him. We usually take him out in the sixth and seventh inning even though he would cry for some more. We were trying to limit his workload.”
The Nationals could decide to skip Ross the next time through the rotation, or perhaps even place him on the DL, which may be enough to keep Giolito on the active roster even when Strasburg returns. Of course, regardless of what roster move Washington makes, the Nationals will be excited to welcome Strasburg back to the rotation, especially after only two missed starts. Strasburg is 10-0 on the season with a 2.90 ERA, and his presence in the Washington rotation can only help the Nationals to maintain their five-game lead atop the NL East.