There wasn’t much in the way of news on Stephen Strasburg this summer, after he went in for surgery on his right wrist when carpal tunnel neuritis caused him issues which held the 2019 World Series MVP to just two starts in 2020.
Mike Rizzo, GM and President of Baseball Operations in D.C., talked to reporters shortly after Strasburg’s season ended after a second attempt to pitch through the issue, about how he thought things would proceed once the decision to shut Strasburg down was made by both the club and the pitcher.
“We feel that it’s unfortunate that Stras is not going to be around pitching for us for the remainder of the season,” Rizzo said.
“A positive part of this thing is that we feel that the injury is not going to be anything long-term for him.
“We think that once he gets his surgery he’ll be back ready to go when Spring Training 2021 starts, and he should be good going forward.”
Rizzo explained at the time that though it wasn’t a common injury for major league pitchers, there was some precedent for how they could handle the rehab process once he had finally undergone the surgical procedure.
“It’s a repetition injury,” he said.
“You can only surmise that it’s from throwing breaking pitches and changeups throughout his lifetime and his career, and I think it’s taken its toll on him in that regard.
“We feel that it’s an injury that he should make a full recovery from and be ready for the season in ‘21.”
The 60-game COVID campaign in 2020 being what it was, the GM said, they decided that a cautious approach with Strasburg, who signed a 7-year/$245M deal with the team after he’d help them win the World Series in 2019, was the right one so that he could be back, healthy, and ready to go for 2021.
“This season gives us an opportunity to really take the cautious route with him,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve seen it — David Price had it at one time in his career and bounced back very nicely from it. We’ve got Stephen having the surgery Wednesday in Baltimore, so we will monitor him closely and have a good path forward to getting him back on the mound and ready to pitch.”
In a pregame press conference on August 26th, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said he knew Washington’s 2009 No. 1 overall pick had undergone the procedure, but at that point he was waiting for updates.
On September 2nd, Martinez told reporters that Strasburg was recovering nicely, though it was going to be a while before he was throwing again.
“He’s home resting right now. He had sutures put in, he’s going to get them out next week, so once he gets them out he’ll get reevaluated and then we’ll go from there,” Martinez said.
“He’s definitely, he’s working out whenever he can,” the manager added.
“He’s got an unbelievable gym in his house and he’s got somebody coming over to help him, so he’s working out the best he can, but he’s not going to throw for a while.”
Three weeks later, as things wound down on the 2020 campaign, Martinez, who signed his own long-term extension over the last weekend of the regular season, said that Strasburg’s rehab was underway and he was expected to be ready for 2021.
“He’s just progressing really, really good, I don’t think there’s going to be any doubt that he starts Spring Training ready to go, but he’s doing well.”
This past week, both Rizzo and Martinez spoke about the now-32-year-old, 11-year veteran’s progress again when they talked, in separate Zoom calls, about the preparations for the ‘21 season.
“He was just reexamined on the 4th of December,” Rizzo said. “He’s coming along great, he should be full-go for Spring Training.
“He began his throwing program a couple weeks ago and he’s progressing nicely, so we feel that he should be full-go by the beginning of Spring Training.”
“He’s still doing his physical therapy,” Martinez added. “He feels really good. He’s going to be ready to go come Spring Training.”
And, Martinez said, Strasburg has thrown.
“He’s thrown a little bit. Right now, we’re kind of at the point where we feel like he’s just at a regular winter, and just getting ready to build up for Spring Training.”
In hindsight, the skipper said, though having Strasburg in 2020 would obviously have been helpful, getting the issue cleared up in the truncated campaign is the most important thing as they head into 2021 with a rotation that will once again feature Stras, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin as the top three.
“It’s unfortunate that Strasburg got hurt,” Martinez said. “But in a way, I won’t say that I’m glad that he got hurt, but we got an issue taken care of and he’ll come back fully healthy and ready to go as well.
“With those three guys up at the top there and, Joe [Ross] and [Erick] Fedde and you’ve got [Austin] Voth and who knows who we may end up getting somewhere down the line, I think we have a really good opportunity to repeat what we did in 2019.”