For the second season in a row, the top pitching prospect in the Washington Nationals' system will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his elbow which was discovered when the Nats had rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg undergo a second MRI following his removal from a game last week in Philadelphia with what was originally diagnosed as a strain to the flexor tendon in his right forearm. Last night's starter in the Nats' 11-10 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, Jordan Zimmermann, the top prospect in the Nationals' organization before Strasburg was drafted, had elbow reconstruction surgery last August and was able to return in a little over a year.
The 22-year-old '09 1st Round pick has just 12 starts and 68.0 major league innings on his arm in which he walked 17 (2.3 BB/9) and struck out 92 (12.2 K/9) following 55.1 IP over 11 starts in the Nats' system during which Strasburg walked just 13 (2.1 BB/9) and struck out 65 (10.6 K/9) and last year's 2009 season at San Diego State University where he went (13-1) with a 1.32 ERA in his Junior year, allowing 19 walks (1.57 BB/9) while collecting 195 K's (16.10 K/9) in 109 innings pitched.
DC GM Mike Rizzo made the announcement on a conference call this morning, "After reviewing the MRI Arthrogram last night, we've come to the conclusion that Stephen Strasburg has a significant tear of his ulnar collateral ligament that will probably require Tommy John Surgery."
Mr. Rizzo and then team President Stan Kasten both informed the press that they had the results last night but made a decision along with Strasburg to withhold the news til this morning so that 2010 1st Round pick Bryce Harper's introduction would not be overshadowed. The Nationals announced that Strasburg would be flying to California to see Dr. Lewis Yocum and the Nationals will make their final decision after that, with Mr. Rizzo saying that they would, "Let Dr. Yocum look at the film and take appropriate action after that," with surgery a possibility, "maybe the next day." Asked if he thought there was any possibility that the second opinion would lead to a different conclusion, Mr. Rizzo said the team has the dry MRI and MRI Arthrogram and reiterated that the team felt there was a "significant tear", so while they'll certainly listen to Dr. Yocum, Mr. Rizzo said they anticipate surgery.
As far as the doctors could tell, they apparently think the injury was an "accute injury from a particular pitch" as Mr. Rizzo put it. Asked about reports of Strasburg suffering a similar pain to the one he felt on the mound in Philadelphia, while he was still in college, Mr. Rizzo said in that case, "He felt a little grab," as opposed to the grimace that he had on his face on the mound in Philadelphia. Asked if he was frustrated, or thought anything could have been handled differently in Strasburg's development Mr. Rizzo admitted that he was, "Frustrated yes, but second guessing ourselves no."
According to the Nats' General Manager, the young pitcher, "...is going to be a dedicated focused individual." Mr. Rizzo said that Strasburg had turned from "being upset to being really focused," on the process of rehabbing and getting himself back up to the major league level. The GM himself was confident explaining that the team had had great success with pitchers who had Tommy John surgery and, "...the success rate for people coming back and retaining their stuff is pretty good." There's little doubt, a 12-18 month "typical Tommy John rehab" for Strasburg lies ahead.