When Stephen Strasburg left his Mountain West Conference Tournament start against New Mexico in the eighth inning after a visit from the trainer and holding his back, baseball fans from San Diego to Washington DC held their collective breath.
The San Diego State ace and probable pick of the Washington Nationals to start the June 9 First-Year Player Draft had what the team and the pitcher called a "back cramp." According to a reporter covering the game for the San Diego Union-Tribune, neither Strasburg nor head coach Tony Gwynn were overly concerned.
"It just cramped up on me, obviously you sweat a little bit out here in Texas and I wasn't keeping enough fluids in me -- that's all," Strasburg told the reporter. "I was trying to fight through it but it was kind of at the point where it was cutting off my delivery."
At that point, Strasburg had pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing no runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He' s now 13-0 with a 1.24 ERA, as San Diego State beat New Mexico, 2-1.
According to a scout at the game, the original thought was that it might be an oblique injury, but one that didn't appear serious. He agreed that whatever the issue was, it was making his delivery break down.
Strasburg stayed in the dugout, standing, for the remainder of the game, and trotted on the field to congratulate his teammates at the conclusion of the game. He never left the dugout for treatment of any sort.
Before he left, Strasburg wasn't as overpowering as he's been all year, but his stuff was still good and he was obviously still effective. He was throwing fastballs 95-98 mph consistently, but New Mexico was catching up to them and making more contact than hitters usually do against Strasburg. That may have been because his breaking ball, typically a nasty wipeout pitch they call a curve but that often looks like a slider, was more of just a regular curve and wasn't as effective, grading out as just an average pitch. Normally, it's a plus pitch that really keeps hitters honest and prevents them from cheating on the fastball.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.