Stephen Strasburg held out hope he could return to help the Washington Nationals if they advanced in the postseason.
What was initially described as a strain of the flexor mass in his right arm, would later be diagnosed as a small tear of the pronator tendon. Strasburg rested and received a platelet-rich plasma injection (PRP) and the 28-year-old starter was back on the mound throwing bullpen sessions as the Nationals battled the LA Dodgers in the NLDS.
He continued to work so he could potentially be able to help the Nationals out at some point.
“I keep telling myself that,” Strasburg told reporters, including Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo before Game 1 of the Division Series.
“That’s why I’m not just shutting it down. I’m working hard every single day to hopefully be in a position to pitch.”
Before the second game of the NLDS, Dusty Baker said he knew pretty early on after Strasburg suffered the injury in a September 7th start, which followed a DL stint for elbow soreness, that the right-hander would not be available for the Division Series.
“We knew that probably shortly after the injury,” Baker explained.
“You know, because you start adding and figuring how long it's going to take to build him back up and you start seeing the fact that you're running out of time. And so then you start making plans to be without him.
“You know, we can wish and hope that somebody's there, but in reality, sooner or later, you're going to realize that they are not going to be here. So you have to make alternative plans.”
Strasburg continued to work as the series went on, but Baker acknowledged before Game 6 that he wouldn’t be available even if the Nationals advanced to the NLCS.
“We know he's not going to be ready for the next series,” Baker said. “You know, he's progressing as well as we'd like. It's never as fast as you'd like. But again, he won't be available for the next series. It would be a miracle if he was.”
Washington dropped Game 5, of course, failing to advance past the NLDS for the third time in their three postseason appearances since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.
In a late October interview, his first of the offseason, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that Strasburg was on schedule to be ready for the start of Spring Training.
“We anticipate Stephen to be full-go this offseason,” Rizzo said.
“And his preparation for Spring Training ... obviously we think he’ll be full-go for Spring Training and into the season.”
Can the Nationals rely on the fact that Strasburg will return at 100% and be ready to go in 2017? Do they need to add insurance to the starting rotation this winter? In an article by the WaPost’s Castillo last week from the GM Meetings in Arizona, Rizzo did talk about liking the rotation depth in the organization but never being satisfied that there is enough pitching.
With Max Scherzer, Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross (who missed significant time with right shoulder inflammation) and Gio Gonzalez and a mix of starters which includes Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, Austin Voth as depth, Rizzo is happy with the options the Nationals have available, though he said that you “... never stop looking for starting pitching.”
“We feel fortunate in the depth we have in pitching at the big league level and prospect wise,” Rizzo said.
“I know that every team we talk to would like to be in the same position we are as far as starting pitching goes.”
Rizzo went on to say that there is never enough and the “... more controllable good starting pitching you can find is what it’s all about,” so the Nationals were, in his words, “... always on the hunt for that.”
Do the Nationals go forward assuming Strasburg will be healthy and available in 2017, or do they need to make moves to add depth in case he suffers a setback this winter, or next Spring or next season?