- Stephen Strasburg will likely require Tommy John surgery, potentially keeping him out of action for the 2011 season. (Photo: Associated Press)
By Samuel Chamberlain and Daniel Victor
Update: 4:12 p.m.: Stephen Strasburg announced at a news conference on Friday afternoon that he will undergo surgery to repair his torn UCL in his right elbow.
Strasburg said that he would leave for Los Angeles tomorrow, stating that he wanted to begin the surgery and rehab process immediately. His locker in the Nationals clubhouse had been emptied and cleared out by the time reporters were admitted Friday afternoon.
"It's a new challenge," said Strasburg, who was joined at the press conference by Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. "I want to be the best at everything. Now I'm going to be the best at rehabbing."
The procedure will be performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum, an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles. Yocum is a physician at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Southern California, which was co-founded by Dr. Frank Jobe, who gave the surgery its name by performing it on Dodgers pitcher Tommy John in 1974.
Yocum also performed Tommy John surgery last year on Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who returned to the mound to start Thursday night's game against St. Louis, the first time in 13 months he has started a major league game.
"If I think about it, I'll eat myself up," Strasburg said. "I have to let it go and move on.
"I can't really explain it. I'm not going to try to explain it anymore."
Previous post: The Washington Nationals announced today that Stephen Strasburg, their rookie pitching sensation, will miss the rest of this season and possibly all of the 2011 season after an arthrogram uncovered a "significant" tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The injury will likely require ligament reconstruction surgery in Strasburg's elbow, also known as Tommy John surgery, though the pitcher will get a second opinion before proceeding. The typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is between 12-18 months.
The announcement was made at a conference call this morning with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo and team President Stan Kasten. Rizzo said that Strasburg knew the results of the MRI last night, but the team waited until today to announce it so as not to overshadow the unveiling of Bryce Harper, the Nationals' first overall pick in the 2010 draft.
"He turned from being upset to being really focused and ready to take on this new thing in his life," Rizzo said of Strasburg's reaction to the news.
Strasburg suffered the injury in Saturday night's 8-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies after throwing a changeup to Philadelphia's Domonic Brown in the fifth inning. Strasburg immediately grimaced and shook his hand in pain. After consulting with manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty, Strasburg was removed from the game. He had received an MRI on Sunday, but the extent of the injury could not be determined due to the amount of swelling around the injury. Strasburg was placed on the disabled list retroactive to August 22. It was his second appearance on the disabled list this season. He had previously been placed on the DL last month after experiencing shoulder inflammation just prior to his scheduled start against the Atlanta Braves July 20. He returned to the active roster August 10 and made three more starts before suffering his injury in Philadelphia.
In the conference call today, Rizzo and Kasten suggested that the injury was "acute," and occurred on the last pitch Strasburg threw before his injury. As Rizzo put it, Strasburg "was developed and cared for the correct way. We’re good with that. Frustrated, yes. Second-guessing ourselves, no." The Nationals had set Strasburg a strict ceiling of 160 major and minor league innings pitched this season. Strasburg finished this season with 123.1 innings pitched.
Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras agreed with the club's assessment, telling the Washington Post "This is just an unfortunate even that occurs with pitchers. It happened with one pitch. There's no notice to any of this. As far as Stephen's treatment and the conservatism applied by all of us, it was done in the greatest of caution."
Regarded as an extreme method to treat elbow injuries when it was first performed in 1974 on the Dodger pitcher of the same name, Tommy John surgery is now a common practice among pitchers. Both of last night's starters, Chris Carpenter of St. Louis and Jordan Zimmermann of Washington have had the surgery performed. As J. Freedom du Lac pointed out on Twitter, eight pitchers who were named to this year's All-Star Game (Carpenter, Tim Hudson of Atlanta, Josh Johnson of Florida, Joakim Soria of Kansas City, Rafael Soriano of Tampa Bay, Hong-Chih Kuo of Los Angeles, and Arthur Rhodes of Cincinnati and Brian Wilson of San Francisco. Billy Wagner of the Braves would have been a ninth if he hadn't turned down an invitation to appear).
Strasburg was not immediately available for comment, and pitching coach McCatty said "no comment" when asked for his thoughts on the injury by TBD's Jay Westcott.
UPDATE: Nationals reliever Craig Stammen, when asked for comment on Strasburg's injury, said this to TBD's Jay Westcott:
"Well, you know, that's very unfortunate for him, my prayers go out to him and his family. It's a rough time because you don't know what that'll mean for your career and whatnot. He'll be alright. He's a strong kid, he'll be fine, he'll get through it, and as teammates, we will be behind him and pick him up a little bit and get him ready for when he'll come back."