Strasburg Rocked in Return From DL

How will Strasburg respond to really rough start?

By HOWARD FENDRICH
|  Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010  |  Updated 3:46 PM EDT
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Images from Strasburg's Debut

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Stephen Strasburg hands the ball to manager Jim Riggleman after being removed from the game in the fifth inning against the Florida Marlins at Nationals Park on August 10.

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Another first for Stephen Strasburg -- his first return from the disabled list -- didn't go so well.

Through his first nine starts in the majors, the Washington Nationals rookie right-hander never lasted fewer than five innings and never allowed more than three earned runs. In his 10th game, Tuesday night against Florida, Strasburg gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings in an 8-2 loss.

It was his first outing since his first career trip to the disabled list, and Strasburg said he felt fine physically.

Pitching coach Steve McCatty said he can't be sure how Strasburg will react because McCatty hasn't "really seen him have too much adversity so far."

Dan Uggla drove in four runs with a homer and a double, and Hanley Ramirez hit two of his three doubles off Strasburg (5-3), whose ERA rose from 2.32 to 3.07. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft had not allowed more than three earned runs or lasted fewer than five innings in any of his previous nine major league games.

Strasburg struck out at least five hitters in each prior start -- including a high of 14 in his June 8 debut -- but had only four Ks against Florida, and two were of opposing pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Strasburg gave up six hits and two walks, and went to three-ball counts on five of the first 12 batters he faced.

Sanchez (9-7), meanwhile, went 6 2/3 innings and both runs he was responsible for were unearned. He allowed five hits and had seven strikeouts.

Strasburg hadn't pitched since a victory at Cincinnati on July 21. His next scheduled start was July 27 at home against Atlanta, but he had trouble getting loose in the bullpen beforehand, prompting general manager Mike Rizzo to scratch the pitcher he signed to a record $15.1 million contract.

Two days later, Strasburg went on the DL with shoulder inflammation.

Although it only had been three weeks since Strasburg last faced major league hitters, his appearance was described as a "long-awaited return" by the PA announcer at Nationals Park. Dozens in the crowd of 25,939 gathered along the walls above the home bullpen to watch him warm up.

His first real pitch was a 99 mph ball to Ramirez, who eventually popped out. But Strasburg walked Logan Morrison and gave up Uggla's 26th homer on a 99 mph fastball, a shot that landed in the red flowers barely beyond the wall in left.

Strasburg's next pitch, to Cody Ross, registered at 100 mph for a swinging strike, before Ross lined out on a diving catch by center fielder Roger Bernadina.

More trouble came in an eventful third, when there was action in Washington's bullpen as Florida took a 4-0 lead.

Strasburg gave up Ramirez's first double, walked Morrison again, was visited by pitching coach Steve McCatty, and eventually gave up Uggla's two-run double over left fielder Josh Willingham's head.

Early in the game, Strasburg was his usual, flame-throwing self, regularly hitting 98 or 99 mph. By the fourth, his fastballs were at 95 mph.

After Ramirez doubled on an 0-2 count in the fifth, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman came out for a visit. Two batters later, Gaby Sanchez doubled off Willingham's glove for a 5-1 lead. That was it for Strasburg, who glanced away while handing Riggleman the ball.

Reliever Miguel Batista walked two batters, loading the bases for Wes Helms, whose two-run double ended his 0-for-18 rut and put Florida ahead 7-1.

When Strasburg beat Florida on July 16, he threw six shutout innings. Tuesday marked the first time he was facing a big league club for a second time.

His next scheduled start is Sunday at home against Arizona.


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