Washington Nationals: Weekend Notes - James Loney, Ian Desmond, Stephen Strasburg.

• Loney, Desi, LaRoche: In the "Apropos of Nothing" section of his weekly Sunday baseball column, "Baseball Notes", Boston Globe sports writer Nick Cafardo wrote this morning that a source with the Dodgers told him the Washington Nationals, in their search for a replacement at first for Adam Dunn had, "made a good push for," LA first baseman James Loney, but, "...when their overtures for Loney were rebuffed, they signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal." Loney's name had of course come up in a series of early December rumors including one which MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@washingnats) reported on Twitter had Los Angeles asking for both pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond in return for their 27-year-old first baseman, but he was just one of several replacement options the Nats had reportedly pursued along with Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee before they finally signed LaRoche for 2-years and $16.0M...and his name never came up after the first round of rumors, with Lee and LaRoche reportedly the last two players the Nats had considered...was D.C. GM Mike Rizzo's leakproof front office trying to once again fly under the radar and make a deal no one saw coming?

• ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote on Friday in an article entitled, "Ten players at a career crossroads", that the Nats' new first baseman would play an important role in the baseball life of 25-year-old Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond, who's placed at the crossroads of his career along with nine other major leaguers on the ESPN.com writer's list of players who have something to prove in 2011. Is Desmond an everyday shortstop or a utility-type infielder? Mr. Olney says there's some disagreement amongst scouts. "Desmond made 34 errors in 2010, but he generally is getting a mulligan for that," Mr. Olney writes, (ed. note - "D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said he thought Desmond would make 35-38 errors."), but if Desmond's error totals drop with LaRoche receiving his throws at first instead of Dunn, that would apparently satisfy the concerns some have about the Montreal Expos' '04 3rd Round pick. 

• Strasburg Chatter: One of several people who claim to have predicted that Stephen Strasburg would eventually injure his elbow because of flaws in his mechanics, Dr. Craig D. Morgan, a renowned surgeon who performed operations on several athletes including former major leaguer Curt Schilling, came up again this weekend in an article by a Dr. Joseph Hecht of a site called The Cub Reporter entitled, "Stretching: The Truth." Dr. Morgan, in interviews after the injury with MLB.com and since then on Sirius/XM's MLB Network, has explained how he was at the game in Philadelphia in which the right-hander suffered what was reportedly an "accute injury", or one that happened on that particular pitch, and had predicted that Strasburg's delivery would eventually lead to an elbow injury. 

Dr. Morgan isn't alone, of course, as The Cub Reporter writer notes. Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper told Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio hosts in the weeks before Strasburg suffered the injury that his delivery would lead to problems, as related by SI.com's Tom Verducci in a July 30th article entitled, "Is Strasburg headed for trouble? One pitching expert thinks so,":

"As he loads the baseball, his elbows raise higher than his shoulders -- forming what pitching coaches call an inverted W -- and the back of his shoulders pinch toward one another in the "scap loading" portion of the delivery. Such a delivery, some pitching coaches believe, puts him at greater risk of shoulder fatigue. Cooper called it "an upside-down arm action." One major league pitching coach years ago told me about the exact same concern about Mark Prior -- before Prior broke down."

As Dr. Morgan noted in an article by MLB.com's Hal Bodley entitled, "Strasburg injury a painful blow to Nationals", the problems for Strasburg and over 300 other athletes he examined started with a pitcher's shoulder. "'All elbow problems originate from the shoulder,":

"'All 300 cases had scapular muscle weakness in the shoulder,' he said. 'That's why they end up tearing their elbow ligament. The problem's in the shoulder. When I watched Strasburg pitch I told my wife in the first inning ... I told my wife he would be on an operating table within a week. Was I wrong?'"

Back in an early April interview on ESPN's Baseball Tonight (on ESPN2), in which Strasburg talked to hosts Karl Ravech and Buster Olney about the start of his professional career, the hosts froze a picture of Strasburg loading up for his delivery and a telestrator traced an "inverted W" from shoulder to shoulder across his back as they asked the then 21-year-old right-hander if he was familiar with the term "inverted W" or the concerns some had expressed about his mechanics: 

Stephen Strasburg: "'I really don't know what an "Inverted W" is, I know there's a lot of pitchers in history who don't have the perfect mechanics and end up pitching 20+ years...(Strasburg's shown the inverted W)...Well, you know, that's the way I've been throwing my whole life, I haven't had an injuries, so I'm just gonna keep working hard, trying to stick to my plan in between, and prepare for the next start...'"

Does Strasburg know now? Will there be changes made to his delivery when he returns? There have been changes to his training, as Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore noted in a recent article entitled, "Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg continues rehab from surgery":

"While not pitching, Strasburg realized he possessed a deficiency common among young pitchers. The muscles at the front of his right shoulder are exceptionally strong, but the muscles in the back, which help the arm decelerate during a pitch, are comparatively weak. When he was scratched from a start in late July, it was because he felt a tweak in those decelerating muscles."

The Cub Reporter article goes into more detail about how the shoulder weakness leads to injuries to the elbow in the article, read it for yourself if you're interested. The good news? With Strasburg and his doctors seemingly having identified one of the key issues others seem to be pointing to as "a" if not "thee" source of his issues, maybe what Dr. Morgan's patient Curt Schilling said on Baseball Tonight after the injury will come true, "Unfortunately for the league guys tend to come back throwing harder after Tommy John than they did beforehand which would be a scary thought."

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