As Washington Post D.C. Sports Bog writer Dan Steinberg wrote yesterday in a post entitled, "Tommy John wants to help Stephen Strasburg", in a recent interview on 106.7 The Fan in DC's "Parker and Parker" show, former Major League starter Tommy John said he would like to talk to the Nats' 22-year-old right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg, who was recently diagnosed with a "significant tear" of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and was reportedly headed toward the elbow reconstruction surgery named after the first pitcher to undergo the procedure. According to former Atlanta Braves' starter John Smoltz, who was forced to undergo the procedure after his 12th season in the majors at 33 years of age, Mr. John called him as well before he went under the knife, as Smoltz recounted recently on the MLB Network's "MLB Tonight". "Tommy John called me," Smoltz explained, "...and said he had the surgery at 32 and pitched 11 years after the surgery, and this is when nobody knew anything, and he basically had the rehab set by himself."
The former Cleveland Indians' prospect, who went on to pitch for the White Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and A's in his 26-year-career and was, coincidentally (not ironically, no) also in his 12th season, though 32-years-old, when he underwent the procedure which would thereafter bear his name, is the original member of what Mr. Smoltz describes in the interview as, "....a big old fraternity of guys that have gone through it and will give him insight. He’ll be certainly with the best of care and he’ll have the knowledge that goes all the way back to Tommy John."
Mr. John told 106.7 The Fan's Parker and Parker that Strasburg's fastball might not be the same as it was before he suffered the injury:
"...so what if he only throws the ball 93 to 94 miles an hour, does that mean the surgery was a failure? I think if he does that that he will be even better, because then he'll learn how to pitch. He won't rely on just raring back and throwing the ball as hard as he can, which probably led a lot to the injury that he has now."
In Mr. Smoltz opinion, the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick is a little more advanced than Mr. John seems to think, as Smoltz says the young starter has an advantage over other pitchers who have undergone the procedure, "...he’s a big league pitcher even though he doesn’t have big league time. What I mean by that is that he knows how to pitch." And though he may not, "...be the guy who throws 98-, 99-miles an hour. He will develop in a way that will benefit his future, if handled correctly." Smoltz says that only part of his own game that was affected by the procedure, was his slider:
John Smoltz: "The only thing I had to change was the fact that my slider was thrown with a certain force that I couldn’t throw anymore. What I mean by that is I had a four-seam slider that I really snapped at the end and I changed sliders and didn’t really lose much. As a matter of fact, I thought consistency in my slider was better. But for the most part, I didn’t have to change anything at all."
Baseball America's Jim Callis (@Jim CallisBA) wrote on Twitter yesterday that a scout he'd spoken to said, "Strasburg will get [his] fastball back but [the scout] wonders about curve. Says curve ranks w/Koufax, Blyleven & Gooden as best of last 50 yrs." As Mr. Smoltz explains, however, his own situation was different, as was Mr. John's:
"...my situation is a little different: I pitched with a tear in my ligament for a long time because my mindset was ‘I’ll pitch as long as I can until it tears and then I’ll retire.’ Well, I did that for quite some time, I was able to be successful even though my arm wasn’t at my best, so when I had the surgery and I felt the way I did in two, three months, I couldn’t believe the difference because of how long I pitched hurt."
The Nationals believe, after reviewing the medical records, that Strasburg's injury was an accute one, as opposed to a result of long-term wear, so there's no telling exactly how he'll recover, but his teammate Jordan Zimmermann has already reportedly offered his help to the Nats' young ace. St. Louis' Cardinals' starter Chris Carpenter reached out to Strasburg too, as MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported in an article entitled, "Carpenter boosts Strasburg's spirits". There's a long line of pitchers who've had the surgery and returned to the top of the game that Strasburg can look to and turn to as he fights his way back, "...unfortunately, [injuries] like this happen in the game," Carpenter told Mr. Ladson, "Guys get hurt. Guys work hard and get back and have success. He is going to be fine."
Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore wrote Monday in an article entitled, "Stephen Strasburg sees doctor, surgery likely coming this week", that Strasburg had visited with California-based Dr. Lewis Yocum yesterday, but it's seen as a formality and DC GM Mike Rizzo tells Mr. Kilgore that, "'Assuming that it's Tommy John, we're going to get it done as soon as possible,' General Manager Mike Rizzo said. 'Probably sometime this week.'" When it's over Strasburg will be part of a fraternity that's impressed by what they've seen out of the once-in-a-generation pitcher, and it looks like he'll have all the help and advice he needs as he works his way back to the mound in Nationals Park.