If "Stephen Strasburg hurt" was the first three-word combination that Washington Nationals fans did not want to hear this season, "Stephen Strasburg scratched" was probably the second.
Strasburg was given the hook at the last minute by general manager Mike Rizzo after having problems loosening his right arm during warmups for what would have been the 10th start of his young career.
The Nationals are currently saying it's better to be safe than sorry with Strasburg and that a scheduled MRI on his right shoulder is only a precautionary measure for a pitcher who is listed as "day to day."
"It didn't take a rocket scientist to say he wasn't pitching tonight," Rizzo said on the team's broadcast after explaining it's his job to look after the "long-term future of the team."
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has more:
"I pulled the plug on it," Rizzo said. "Precautionary move. Erring on the side of caution, I just didn't want him to go out there when he was struggling to get loose in the bullpen pregame."
Strasburg had no symptoms and offered no warnings this week, Rizzo said. He threw a clean bullpen session over the weekend and felt fine after playing catch yesterday. Rizzo did not specify which part of Strasburg's arm could not loosen, but he did say the trouble was with his right arm.
"There's no pain," Rizzo said. "There's no shooting pains or anything like that in the shoulder or elbow. He was just struggling to get loose."
It's not hard to believe that the Nationals are being extremely cautious with the future of their franchise, especially considering they're not in contention for a playoff spot. There's no reason to rush Strasburg, no matter how many fans showed up to Nationals Park to see him or if he was scheduled to take part in his much-anticipated first matchup against Atlanta's Jason Heyward(notes).
At the same time, I'm not going to blame Nationals fans if they don't sleep well until they see the results of that MRI. Arm problems and young pitchers go hand in hand and it's not a big leap for the story to go from "scratched" to "15-day DL." I'm not saying that's the case here, but make sure you remind your Nats fan friends to remember to breathe deep every once in awhile.