Stephen Strasburg and ‘Hot Stuff’ ointment are apparently not a very good mix

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Yeesh. It sounds like even the great Stephen Strasburg isn't impervious to feeling the burn a little more than is usually preferable.

In a somewhat mysterious episode on Tuesday afternoon, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson told the team's beat writers that Strasburg's poor pitching performance was due in part to some "Hot Stuff" that "got to the wrong place."

How the tingling analgesic ointment reached somewhere it shouldn't — or exactly what area of sensitive skin it came in contact with — the 69-year-old skipper didn't know, or at least wouldn't say. But coupled with a damp day at Nationals Park, it apparently had a negative effect on Strasburg who gave up four runs in four labored innings of work during Washington's 6-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. It was the first loss of the year for the Nationals ace.

From the Associated Press:

''It was on his shoulder and evidently — I don't know how it got to where it got, but it was uncomfortable, to say the least,'' Johnson said with a chuckle.
Asked about it, Strasburg said: '"I'm going to keep that in the clubhouse.'"

After Johnson's revelation hit the Internet — and, really, that's the sort of thing the skipper should be keeping from jackals like us — there was some speculation that it was the product of a teammate's prank and that the area in question involved, uh, Stephen's Strasburgs.

But as much as the blogosphere would have liked to learn that it was Bryce Harper who lined Strasburg's jock with Hot Stuff or that Strasburg was getting his Roger Clemens on, Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore said no teammate looked guilty and that it was likely just an unfortunate transfer of ointment.

Writes Kilgore:

The sense in the Nationals' clubhouse was no one would have pulled a prank on Strasburg on the day he pitched — nobody would be that dumb. Baseball clubhouses are full of jocularity and pranks, but they don't take precedence over winning.

Players found it plausible that the ointment had found the wrong place by accident. Some pitchers will use the Hot Stuff to prepare for a start and get their blood flowing. It is possible the rain and wet conditions caused the ointment to move to the wrong part of Strasburg's body.

Having once seen a football teammate run off the field screaming in pain after Icy Hot somehow got in his eyes, I'm wondering if the above picture of a grimacing Strasburg reflects what really happened. After all, it's not much of a stretch to think that Strasburg could have wiped his shoulder and then his brow, only to realize his mistake when his sweat later brought the Hot Stuff down into his eyeballs.

Of course, there's another distinct possibility that involves an, uh, "adjustment" that ballplayers are particularly known for, but I don't think we need to get into the specifics on a fine family website like this one.

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