Surgery for Strasburg

Year rehab awaits after Tommy John

By Joseph White
Associated Press / August 28, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg had to get through a few hours of anger, confusion, and certainly a few more volatile emotions before he was ready to accept the sobering news expressed in three disheartening words.

Tommy John surgery.

The Washington Nationals rookie sensation is done for the season — and maybe next season as well — after the team announced yesterday that he has a torn ligament in his right elbow. He will travel to the West Coast today for a second opinion, but the 22-year-old righthander has accepted the fact that he will need the ligament replacement operation that requires 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation.

“It’s a new challenge,’’ Strasburg said. “I want to be the best at everything, and right now I want to be the best at rehabbing and getting back out here.’’

Strasburg grimaced, grabbed, and shook his wrist after throwing a 1-and-1 changeup to Domonic Brown in Philadelphia last Saturday. The Nationals initially called the injury a strained flexor tendon in the forearm, but an MRI taken Sunday raised enough questions for the Nationals to order a more extensive MRI.

Strasburg had the exam Thursday and was informed of the diagnosis that night, but the Nationals chose not to announce the news until yesterday because it would have upstaged the introductory news conference for 2010 No. 1 draft pick Bryce Harper.

Strasburg could hardly believe the bad news, especially because his arm has felt fine all week, certainly good enough to keep pitching. “I didn’t take a matter of minutes’’ to sink in, he said. “I took definitely a few hours.

“Bottom line, this is a game. I’m very blessed to play this game for a living. It’s a minor setback, but in the grand scheme of things it’s just a blip on the radar screen.’’

Strasburg said he plans to write down on a piece of paper everything he’s thinking and look at it again a year from now. He’s said he’s doing it he knows his mind might “get a little jumbled’’ as he goes through rehab and that he wants to remember everything he needs to focus on.

And as far as trying to figure out why this has happened to him? He’s done with that question. “If I keep looking for an explanation, it’s just going to eat at me, and I’ve got to let it go,’’ he said. “I’ve just got to move on, and that’s what I’m doing.’’

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Strasburg signed a record $15.1 million contract. He struck out 14 batters in his major league debut in June and was quickly drawing huge crowds. He went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings with the Nationals, who kept him on strict pitch counts and had planned to shut him down once he reached about 105 innings.

But he has had medical setbacks despite the team’s efforts to be as cautious as possible. He was placed on the disabled list a month ago because of shoulder inflammation. He was making his third start since his DL stint when his season ended.

“The player was developed and cared for in the correct way, and things like this happen,’’ Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Pitchers break down, pitchers get hurt and we certainly are not second-guessing ourselves. . . . Frustrated? Yes. But second-guessing ourselves? No.’’

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