WASHINGTON - BALTIMORE (AP) — Stephen Strasburg's weary right elbow was stiff and in dire need of some rest, so the Washington Nationals put their winningest pitcher on the 15-day disabled list Monday.
The right-hander was willing to pitch through the pain for the NL East-leading Nationals, but manager Dusty Baker had other plans.
"I told him we hadn't won anything yet and that we had to look at the big picture," Baker said. "Hopefully he'll be good in September and hopefully in October."
Baker expected Strasburg (15-3, 3.59 ERA) to spend the minimum amount of time on the DL.
"He knows how bad we need him to pitch," the manager said. "I had to explain to him that it's not hero time."
Asked if he considered it to be a precautionary move, Strasburg replied, "One hundred percent."
After bolting to a 15-1 start this season, Strasburg was 0-3 with a 14.66 ERA over his past three outings.
"The recovery after each start started to get a little bit more difficult," the 28-year-old said. "I felt like I was losing range of motion and wasn't able to get that back in between starts. I am trying to make it better than it ever was, I guess, and hopefully that will translate into good performance down the road."
Strasburg missed 17 games from June 19 to July 3 while on the disabled list with an upper-back strain. He hoped to avoid another trip to the DL, but Baker decided it was the right thing to do.
"I feel as a pitcher, a competitor, as long as it's good enough you think you can just go out there and pitch," Strasburg said. "I wanted to go out there and give it a go."
His performance recently suggested it was better just to take a seat for a couple of weeks or so.
"He came to us and we made the decision for him," Baker said.
Strasburg's right elbow has been a concern of the team — and the pitcher — ever since he underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery in September 2010.
"Being a Tommy John guy, getting through the grind of a season there is just a little more maintenance that has to go with it," he said.
Strasburg said he might change his regimen between starts, opting to work less with weights and more on flexibility.
"Your arm works a little bit differently when you do have surgery like that," he said.
Strasburg was scheduled to start Monday night at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. Washington recalled righty A.J. Cole to start in his place.