The Other Phenom: Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg Slowly Working Way Back.

All Stephen Strasburg can do is wait and rehab until he's ready to once again return to the mound in the majors. He's about to take another step in his rehab. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When is he going to be promoted? When is he going to be promoted? When is he going to be promoted? When is he going to be promoted? When is he going to be promoted? A year ago today all anyone wanted to talk about was how long it would be before Stephen Strasburg would make his much-anticipated MLB debut. A then-21-year-old Strasburg had just completed 6.0 no-hit innings in his second Triple-A start after being promoted to the Nats' top affiliate following five starts with Double-A Harrisburg in which he'd gone (3-1) with 6 BB (2.45 BB/9), 27 K's (11.05 K/9) a 1.64 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in 22.0 IP when D.C. GM Mike Rizzo appeared on 660 WFAN in New York before a Nationals/Mets game and explained that it wouldn't be long til the entire baseball world got a look at the top pitching prospect in baseball: 

"Stephen Strasburg has pitched lights out at Double-A, he had a terrific Triple-A start, you know, he's on the cusp of being a major league pitcher. We're just going to do the right thing for him first of all, and for us as a franchise."

"We feel that [Strasburg] needs some tweaking of the nuances of the game," Mr. Rizzo continued, "...we're willing to get him some more minor league innings under his belt, where he can earn the craft of being a starting, professional pitcher in a less stressful situation. [Strasburg] has been terrific since the day we signed him, he's gone on and zipped through the minor leagues," Mr. Rizzo said, "...through the Arizona Fall League, he hasn't stopped yet, and he's still peforming for us at a high level, you know, both of these guys [Strasburg and Drew Storen] are big pieces for us in the future and the future might not be as far away as people think."

Less than month later Strasburg pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Nationals Park, striking out 14, walking no one and allowing just four hits and two runs, both earned in what was one of the more memorable MLB debuts for any team anywhere. 11 starts and 61.0 innings later, Strasburg tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Tommy John surgery followed, and the only updates since have been about the increasing distances he's been throwing at as he slowly works his way back. 

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark had an update on Strasburg's recovery last week in the latest edition of his "Rumblings and Grumblings" column entitled, "Reviewing what is painfully obvious." "Strasburg remains on a similar track to Jordan Zimmermann's Tommy John surgery recovery of a year ago," the ESPN writer noted, though Strasburg's injury occurred later in the 2010 campaign thatn Zimmermann's had in 2009. "But if nothing goes amiss," Mr. Stark wrote:

"[Strasburg] could make five or six minor league appearances and be back, tentatively, pitching in the big leagues by September. The Nationals won't force those September starts if he's not ready, but Strasburg is all for that path. "'Hell,' said one Nationals exec, 'if it were up to him, he'd start tonight.'"

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore spoke to Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty yesterday for an article tantalizingly entitled, "Stephen Strasburg ‘close’ to throwing off a mound, feeling ‘great’", in which he wrote that Strasburg, "...is 'close' to reaching a significant milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery by throwing off a mound again," though the Nats' pitching coach wouldn't speculate as to exactly when the '09 no.1 overall pick will climb back up on the hill:

"'When he’s ready, he’s ready,' McCatty said. 'If it’s 12 months like Zimmermann or a little longer or a little shorter...'"

Jordan Zimmermann will make his 15th start since returning from Tommy John surgery tonight in Atlanta in the series finale with the Braves. Strasburg is at the Nationals' facilities in Viera, Florida, rehabbing and watching the Nationals from afar. Soon he'll throw off a mound. At some point he'll start to rehab in the minors and then the speculation will start all over again. When will Strasburg return? When will Strasburg return? When will Strasburg return...?

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