WASHINGTON – Stephen Strasburg's season debut was about to unravel in a five-run fifth inning Sunday, when he walked a batter and vigorously shook his right hand.
Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez and a trainer exited the dugout to go check on the World Series MVP, who's had a nerve issue in his pitching hand. He waved them off.
Strasburg stayed in long enough to face three more batters and allow three more hits to the Orioles in a game that eventually was suspended with Baltimore ahead 5-2 in the top of the sixth — because the grounds crew had trouble unrolling the tarp when a shower arrived.
“I don’t know if you can call it a rain delay. More of a tarp delay," Strasburg said with a smile. “Add this to the list in 2020.”
The game will resume at Baltimore on Friday, when the teams already were supposed to be opening a series, meaning the Orioles will try to finish off this three-game Nationals Park sweep while playing at Camden Yards.
Strasburg missed his first two starts, and while the team pronounced him ready to go -- “He’s completely past it. He wouldn’t be on the mound today if he wasn’t,” GM Mike Rizzo said a half-hour before the game -- the righty acknowledged afterward he's still working his way back.
“To be honest, I felt it, and I don't know if it was necessarily like fatigue or just not having necessarily the stamina built up quite yet. But it’s something where I don't think I'm doing any long-term harm on it, but it does have an impact on being able to throw the baseball and being able to commit to pitches,” Strasburg said about shaking his hand in the fifth.
“So that’s something I haven't quite figured out -- how to pitch through it yet. So I think the goal is to continue to get built up and get the pitch count up to where that won’t be flaring up over the course of the start," he said.