Strasburg was able to play catch on Sunday morning

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We’ve been tracking Stephen Strasburg news all morning and will continue to do so this week as the Nationals make an important decision on his immediate future with the club.

Strasburg, 22, was lifted from his start against the Phillies on Saturday night after feeling pain in his right elbow during a fifth-inning pitch to outfielder Domonic Brown.  He was later diagnosed with a strain of the flexor tendon in his forearm, but all signs so far point to him being just fine.

According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, the right-hander played catch on Sunday morning before heading back to Washington, D.C. for an MRI.  The results of that examination will determine whether he is shut down for the rest of 2010 or kept active.  But he did play catch, and that’s a major positive.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo denied a report from Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus stating that the team has already decided to shut Strasburg down.  For what it’s worth, we’re finding it hard to believe that the kid is going to throw another pitch this season.  Even if everything checks out fine, he topped out at 109 innings last year with San Diego State and is up to 123.1 total frames between the minors and majors this season.  Strasburg is too valuable to that organization in the long term and, for all intents and purposes, 2010 is a done deal for the Nats.

The D.C. medical staff would be wise to tell the young phenom to shut it down and aim to get himself back to full health by the start of spring training next February.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.