Stephen Strasburg goes on 15-day DL with right elbow soreness

— -- The Washington Nationals have placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow soreness.

The right-hander was willing to pitch through the pain for the National League 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 Monday. "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.''

Washington recalled pitcher A.J. Cole from Triple-A Syracuse. Cole will replace Strasburg as the Nationals' starting pitcher Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Asked if he considered it to be a precautionary move and if he'll be back for the postseason, Strasburg said: "A hundred percent I think I was good enough to go, but the recovery in between was becoming more of a challenge."

"I felt like I was losing range of motion and wasn't able to get that back in between starts, so I'm trying to make it better than it ever was, I guess," he said. "Hopefully that'll translate to some good performance down the road."

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.

Strasburg missed 17 games from June 19 to July 3 while on the disabled list with an upper-back strain. He'd hoped to avoid another trip to the DL, but Baker and general manager Mike Rizzo decided it was the right thing to do.

"We put him on the DL, and hopefully he comes back in 15 days stronger than ever and can recharge and be really strong at the end," Rizzo said. "The position that we're in at this time in the season, better off getting him right now to fully strong for the tail end of the season."

Rizzo said Strasburg undergoing a precautionary MRI is is a possible option.

"We have one from when he signed his extension, so we feel we have our arms around what's going on," he 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's performance recently suggested it was better just to take a seat for a couple of weeks or so.

"He's going to be around for a long time ..." Baker said. "This is what I had to convince him, that the risk isn't worth the gain right now."

ESPN's Eddie Matz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.