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Stephen Strasburg Has 'Significant Tear' in Elbow Ligament, Will Need Surgery

Aug 27, 2010 – 10:37 AM
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Marc Lancaster

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Stephen Strasburg's captivating rookie season is finished.

The Nationals announced Friday morning that their phenom will not pitch again this season after testing Thursday revealed a "significant tear" in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He will get a second opinion but the Nationals anticipate he'll undergo Tommy John surgery, which generally sidelines pitchers for 12 to 18 months.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the team's medical staff believes Strasburg's injury was "acute" and happened on one pitch.

"As you can imagine he was initially upset by the news, but he has really turned himself from being upset to being focused on his rehabilitation," Rizzo said. "He's determined to get after this, get the surgery done and get to the process of rehabilitation."

Strasburg met with the media Friday afternoon at Nationals Park and said he already was focused on the steps that lie ahead of him rather than dwelling on the fact that he's injured.

"It just happened," he said. "I can't really explain it and I'm not going to try to explain it anymore."

Strasburg on Tuesday was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season after leaving his most recent start Saturday in the fifth inning with a strained flexor tendon in his forearm. It was only Strasburg's third start back from his first stint on the DL, and he didn't reach the sixth inning in any of them.

His previous disabled list trip came as a result of shoulder inflammation and kept him sidelined for nearly three weeks in late July and early August. That move was widely seen as precautionary, and Rizzo emphasized Friday that the Nationals are "not concerned" about Strasburg's shoulder going forward.

Still, as carefully as the Nationals monitored and regulated their franchise pitcher's workload on the way to the majors and continued to do so even after he arrived, they couldn't prevent the short-term disaster revealed in that MRI arthrogram.

"This player was developed and cared for in the correct way and things like this happen," Rizzo said. "Pitchers break down, pitchers get hurt, but we're certainly not second-guessing ourselves. We've developed a lot of pitchers this way and we're satisfied with the way he was developed. I know Scott Boras is satisfied with the way he's been treated and developed, and Stephen is, also. We're good with that. Frustrated? Yes. But second-guessing ourselves? No."

In trying as hard as he could to find a bright side in the news, Rizzo noted that Tommy John surgery, while a significant setback, is an easier obstacle to overcome than a shoulder injury. Doctors have perfected the Tommy John process in recent years, making it routine for pitchers to come back and retain the stuff they had before the injury. As an example, Rizzo pointed to Thursday night's starting pitchers at Nationals Park -- the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and the Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann, both of whom had endured the procedure.

Angels team orthopedist Lewis Yocum did Zimmermann's surgery and will examine Strasburg in the coming days in California. If he agrees surgery is required, it will be performed as soon as possible.

"It appears that surgery is what needs to be done," Strasburg said, "and I definitely want to get that done as fast as humanly possible so I can get the rehab going and get back out here pitching at Nats Park as soon as possible."

Though Strasburg struggled to stay on the mound in his abbreviated debut campaign, the results when he was able to pitch tended toward the spectacular. In 12 major league starts beginning June 8, Strasburg was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA. He allowed just 56 hits while walking 17 and striking out a whopping 92 in 68 innings.

FanHouse TV's Steve Phillips breaks down Strasburg's troublesome mechanics. Click to watch:

Filed under: Sports