A dark Strasmas: Strasburg likely out 12 to 18 months

strasburg 100 c.jpgThe day after Bryce Harper was drafted, Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut–a memorable 14 strikeout performance at that. The day after Harper was introduced at Nationals Park, GM Mike Rizzo announced Strasburg has a torn elbow ligament and will most likely need “Tommy John” surgery. It also comes one day after pitcher Jordan Zimmermann made his first Major League start since he had “Tommy John” surgery on August 19, 2009.

Strasburg will travel to the West Coast for a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum, the surgeon who performed “Tommy John” surgery on Zimmermann. It is more of a technicality than anything else because Rizzo doesn’t expect to get a different opinion. He fully expects the 2009 No.1 pick will need the operation that requires 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation.

“I look at the bright side,” Rizzo said. “‘Tommy John’ surgery is a surgery that we’ve had great success at. The success rate for guys coming back from ‘Tommy John’ and retaining their stuff is very good.”

It will never be known if this was inevitable for the 100 mph hurler, Strasburg. Was it the Major League workload? Was it his mechanics? Was it the torque his arm experienced after each throw? There are probably a hundred different variables that contributed to the tear–we won’t try to weigh one over another. The first sign that Strasburg injured his elbow was on Saturday after he threw a 1-1 change-up to Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown. As he grimaced and shook his elbow, the Nationals collectively held their breath but the Nationals don’t have any regrets.

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

After his Major League debut, it was a foregone conclusion that Strasburg was from a different planet. Then Strasburg showed his first sign of being a human on July, 27 when he was scratched 20 minutes before the game because he couldn’t get warmed-up and experienced inflammation in his right shoulder. He was placed on the 15-day DL and would make just three more starts.

The book is closed on his rookie season: 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA (68.0 IP/ 22 ER) with 92 strikeouts and a .221 BAA. He never pitched more than 7.0 innings or less than 4.1 and never threw more than 99 pitches in a start.

There is hope that this will just be a footnote in Strasburg’s career and strictly based on how others have recovered from Chris Carpenter to AJ Burnett there is a good chance it will be. On the bright side, Strasburg will be just 24 years old when Spring Training starts in 2012. Whether he is ready to go, time will tell but he will have a new ulner collateral ligament and he will be as determined as ever to prove himself once again.

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