Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg said on Wednesday that he felt better after being scratched with shoulder inflammation moments before a scheduled start the day before. Strasburg received treatment on Wednesday morning and afternoon – stretching and strengthening the muscles around the right shoulder – but it is still unclear if he will make his next start on Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies. An MRI during the Braves game showed no rotator cuff damage or structural problems with the shoulder. The 21-year-old endured similar shoulder stiffness while pitching in college at San Diego State and said this was a similar event.

“It feels a lot better, the range of motion with doing some stretching is starting to come back,” Strasburg said. “But we’re not going to jump the gun. We just have to take it day-by-day.”

Nats head trainer Lee Kuntz said Strasburg would be re-evaluated in “three or four days” as the rest and anti-inflammatory medication do their work. But that timetable would put a bullpen session – necessary to see if Strasburg is ready to go Sunday, according to manager Jim Riggleman – in doubt. Then again - one day later no one in the organization, including Strasburg himself, was ready to push the envelope yet. Strasburg has pitched 109 2/3 innings combined between the minor leagues and Washington in 2010.

“It’s also a point in time for him to learn about his body a little bit,” Kuntz said. “Again, a college kid coming here this is every five days. It’s a lot different from what he was used to. He’s learning himself and we’re helping him do that.”

Strasburg agreed with that assessment:

“Obviously, you have to have some decelerators in your body to kind of slow your body down. I've been learning a lot here and when you're playing this many games throughout the season, you're going to start feeling things in your body that you wouldn't otherwise thought you'd feel. You know, little things getting to feel a little off. So it's a good learning process for me. It really is a blessing in disguise because I know what this feels like to get to the 100-game point, getting right up to this many innings. And I know how to prepare for it now and next year, God willing, this won't happen again and we'll be in playoff contention."

So what exactly happened on Tuesday night?

"I just went out there, I felt tight a little bit. I wanted to go out there to keep it loosened up,” Strasburg said. “It was just one of those days where it was tighter than normal. I'm just at the point in the season where I'm kind of going down uncharted territory. Got to be smart right now and look at the big picture."

Strasburg mentioned “hitting the wall” – a fair description of a right-hander who is pitching as a professional for the first time. His 109 2/3 innings this season have been far tougher than what he saw in the Mountain West Conference a year ago in a similar amount. But because the shoulder inflammation has happened before Strasburg wasn’t overly concerned as he left the field on Tuesday – more frustrated that his night was over before it started.

"It's at this point in the year where I’ve just got to really push through it and the biggest thing is getting my range of motion back, making sure that I'm flexible, and everything's feeling nice and loose, and just really pushing, pushing through this grind. I wasn't concerned by no means. It's just something that they've got to do just to make sure. I knew in my mind that it was nothing too serious."

And with that, the big right-hander took his leave. He wasn’t thrilled answering this line of questioning, probably feeling the whole thing is overblown. One reporter pressed Strasburg on when exactly he first felt the shoulder stiffness.

"I already answered that. I already answered it,” Strasburg said. “It was, like, a couple days ago, it was just feeling a little bit tighter than usual. So, it just happens."

He walked away muttering that if he was really hurt for an extended period of time he wouldn’t have made it through 109 combined innings this season. Good point, I guess. But that edge we occasionally see from Strasburg when dealing with the media had crept back into his voice. Yes, there's a learning process there, too.

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