Washington (AFP) - Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg, last year's World Series Most Valuable Player, was dropped from his scheduled Major League Baseball start Saturday with a nerve issue in his right hand.
The 32-year-old right-hander won a record-tying five playoff games last year, two of them on the road in Washington's World Series victory over Houston for the US capital's first MLB crown since 1924.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez said the team would be extremely careful about Strasburg's return, but were hopeful he could pitch in a few days after taking a cortisone injection.
Strasburg, who signed a seven-year deal worth $245 million in the off-season, was to have faced the New York Yankees at an empty Nationals Park in just their second contest of the coronavirus delayed and shortened season.
Strasburg felt the hand nerve issue Monday in his final tuneup appearance against Baltimore but has not felt any discomfort in his arm, Martinez said.
Strasburg went 18-6 with a 3.32 earned-run average in 33 starts and 209 innings last year in the season, then went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the playoffs.
His absence adds to an already chaotic start to the title-defending campaign for the Nationals, who lost star outfielder Juan Soto hours before Thursday's season opener to a positive COVID-19 test.
The Nats also saw catcher Tres Barrera hit with an 80-game doping suspension Saturday morning that will see him miss all of the 2020 season, cut from 162 to 60 games per club due to the deadly virus, plus the first 20 games of the 2021 campaign.