Strasburg has now missed two starts with nerve irritation in his right hand. Suero went on the IL for undisclosed reasons in mid-July, and is having trouble getting his cutter velocity back to normal. Outside of Washington, starters Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber are some of the biggest names to face health issues early in the season. Back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom had a stiff back during summer training.
The worry is that after a three-and-a-half month break, then a three-week buildup to the season, pitchers are acutely susceptible to injury. The Nationals have learned that with three arms they want to count on in 2020 — Strasburg as a key element of their rotation, Harris as a key element of their bullpen, and Suero as a middle reliever who shouldered a very heavy workload last year.
But they still plan to be very cautious with each pitcher.
“We’re watching all this stuff,” Martinez said this week. “I meet with the medical staff twice daily, and we talk about other teams and the issues they’re having, as well. We’re going to do everything we can to keep these guys healthy.”
When asked why it’s been tricky to do so, Martinez pointed to the sport shutting down from mid-March to July 3.
“It’s really hard to say,” Martinez started. “They had significant amount of time off. They got ramped up, but they had a lot of time off. You don’t really know what everybody did in the three months. All of a sudden, now they come back you’ve got three weeks and they ramped it up again pretty good to get ready.”
Harris’s short time with Washington has been filled by small injuries. He was slowed in spring by an abdominal strain. Before pitching in an exhibition earlier this month, he had not faced live hitters since losing to the Nationals in Game 7 of the World Series last October. During the shutdown, he was at home in Louisiana and working with a group of professional players.
Part of that was rehabbing the ab strain. Another was keeping some sort of throwing and lifting routine. But with limited resources, and most workout facilities closed for the pandemic, many players had trouble staying in optimal shape. Harris did not express that on July 14, the last time he spoke with reporters. But his first two appearances of the shortened season were subpar.
He recorded just two outs in each. In the first, he yielded a hit and a run while walking a batter. In the second, he yielded two hits and let two score. His cutter velocity was a few ticks down, though it’s only a minuscule sample size. The Nationals now have a four-day break before returning to action next Tuesday, and hope the time off will help Harris and others heal.