D.C. GM Mike Rizzo didn't address recent comments questioning the Nationals' motivations for having Washington's '09 no. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg starting to throw competitively this Sunday in Hagerstown as he works his way back for what could potentially be some late-season starts in the nation's capital. The Nats' general manager did, however, talk about the plan for the the 23-year-old right-hander on The Mike Rizzo Show Thursday night when he spoke to 106.7 the FAN's Danny Rouhier, once again drawing comparisons to the process Jordan Zimmermann went through during his own rehab from Tommy John surgery in 2009...
Mike Rizzo: "Stephen, his progression is going to be dictated on how he feels before, during and after he pitches. He's on Dr. [Lewis] Yocum and Dr. Weimi Douoguih and Lee Kuntz's rehabilitation plan from Tommy John surgery. The same plan that Dr. Yocum has used many, many times before, the same plan that we've used with Jordan Zimmermann and others before. And it will be dictated on how he feels. How the ball comes out of his hand. How he feels the day after. How he feels two days after when he throws a side. And then we'll take it from there.
So, it's hard to really pinpoint when, if and when, he will pitch in the big leagues. All I can say is if all goes well, if his rehab goes perfectly without any setbacks or hiccups, we would like him to pitch 50 or so innings this year professionally to build a foundation for him to take into Spring Training and build on for next year. Just as Jordan Zimmermann did last year, he had [70.2] innings built into him for his foundation to pitch 160.0 innings this year. So, that's where we're at, it's hard to be any more specific than that, because it's so much determined on how [Strasburg] feels before, during and after.
"I will say that he threw his side today after he pitched before and he is scheduled to pitch Sunday in Hagerstown. Two innings, 35 pitches and then we will take the next step from there."
Jordan Zimmermann suffered an injury to his elbow in July '09, still felt pain after a rehab start, and had Tommy John surgery several weeks later in August 2010. He returned to competitive action a year after the injury in July 2010 with D.C. GM Mike Rizzo telling reporters including Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore that the then-24-year-old right-hander would, "... be limited to pitching two innings or making 35 pitches," in his first start which took place with the Class-A Potomac Nationals:
"He's been ahead of schedule, really, the whole time," Rizzo said. "I've had to pull him back a little bit and pull the reins in a little bit, which makes him unhappy at times because he wants to go at 100 miles per hour all the time. But that's a good thing. We're satisfied with where he's at, and we're hoping there's no hiccups or setbacks. If there's not, we'll expect to see him back here sometime in 2010."
Zimmermann made ten starts between Class-Potomac and Hagerstown, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, walking just six, striking out 31 and allowing 27 hits and nine runs in 39.2 IP before making his return to the Majors with a start on August 26th. Zimmermann got hit hard as he worked his way back, making seven starts and throwing 31.0 innnings with the Nationals, and surrendering far more HR's than he generally does, but it wasn't about the right-hander's stats, but about continuing the rehab program he was on. Zimmermann was ready for Spring Training in 2011 and back in the rotation with an innings limit he's four starts from reaching, three after tonight.
Zimmermann had the surgery in August, returned to the mound in July and was up with the Nats by late August a year after having Tommy John. Strasburg had the surgery in the first week of September in 2010, he's returning to the mound in August of 2011 with an eye on making a few major league starts in September a year after the surgery. We've all seen this before. Barring any setbacks (or hiccups). Why any controversy?
• Some other interesting quotes from The Mike Rizzo Show:
• On Sending Roger Bernadina To Triple-A: "Roger is a guy that we feel still has a high ceiling. He's a 26-year-old kid who missed a full season and almost a half a season before that, so his developmental curve, he's a little behind at-bat-wise. We needed to make a roster move. We were at the trade deadline. [Chien-Ming] Wang had to come off the 30-Day rehab stint that he was on. Davey [Johnson] wanted to have 13 pitchers on the staff to piggyback Wang in case he could only go three or four innings and not blow up the rest of the bullpen."
• On Trading Jason Marquis: "Zach Walters [is a] switch-hitting shortstop that we had seen as an amateur in the college ranks that we really liked. He's putting up great numbers in Class-A ball in his first full season as a pro. We like the fact that it gives us much more depth and a chance to get an everyday impact middle infielder that can switch hit, high on base percentage guy that's a good steady defender and gives us a chance to increase our depth, replenish our minor league system and to build for the future, allows us some financial flexibility to do some other things with it, be it sign some draft picks or to make some major league moves."
• On Chris Marrero: "Chris Marrero is one heck of a prospect. We seem to forget that's he's still only 23-years-old. He just turned 23-years-old. It seems like he's been around for so long, but he's still very, very young. He's really acclimated himself to the Triple-A level, he's having a terrific season and he's working his way slowly, but diligently up the minor league ladder and his next step will be in the big leagues be it in September this year or battling for a place on the 25-Man Roster next season. But he's a terrific prospect, he's a terrific player, he's hitting .300 this year and has made great strides defensively at first base."