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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo on Stephen Strasburg, pitching depth + more

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GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters on Sunday afternoon before the Nationals beat the Marlins 9-3 in D.C.

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Davey Martinez acknowledged in announcing that Stephen Strasburg was likely done for the season, with surgery for carpal tunnel neuritis scheduled for later this week, that the injury wasn’t a common one for pitchers.

“This is something that it was very weird,” the Washington Nationals’ third-year skipper said on Saturday afternoon.

“He was complaining about his wrist, and then next thing you know his thumb started going numb on him, and he couldn’t feel the baseball, that’s how it all started.

“I don’t know, for sure, but they don’t know how this could have happened.”

“It’s a repetition injury,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in a Zoom call on Sunday, when asked for his assessment of the origins of the issue in Strasburg’s wrist.

“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.”

Strasburg’s rotation mate, Max Scherzer, said on Saturday night that he felt for Strasburg, and knew how tough it was for him to have to shut it down.

“It’s just disappointing news,” Scherzer said. “You feel for him because you know how hard he works. Everybody worked so hard, especially in the shutdown, that you want to be able to get out here and be able to pitch.

“When you get that taken away from you it’s a gut-punch. It’s a gut-punch for our team, but I know specifically for Stephen. That’s not a fun thing to have to go through. Wish him the best, and hopefully this is a surgery that he can get through good and makes him good to go whenever he can get back on the mound.”

Rizzo echoed that disappointment and the empathy for the Nationals’ 2009 No. 1 overall pick, but said he believes it provides an opportunity for other pitchers in the organization.

“We feel that it’s unfortunate that Stras is not going to be around pitching for us for the remainder of the season,” Rizzo explained.

“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.

“It affects the team, it gives some of your guys an opportunity to shine and see what they can do, and I think it’s a next-man-up type of attitude in that clubhouse, and I think it gives us a chance to kind of show off what our depth in this organization is, and I think you can see by the players that we’ve brought up in the last couple of weeks or so that they’re young, they’re energetic, they’re talented players who are going to propel us to a positive future.”

As far as the rehab process for what they admitted was an uncommon issue, Rizzo said that there are some precedents.

“This season gives us an opportunity to really take the cautious route with him,” the GM 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.”

Will the injury to their 2019 World Series MVP, who was expected to play a big role again in this 60-game season, change the way the Nationals approach things heading towards the August 31st trade deadline?

“We like the depth that we have at starting pitching, and we’re one of the organizations that have depth at that spot,” Rizzo said.

“We get calls about our starting pitching all the time and we feel very, very fortunate that we have that type of depth of young arms that can contribute on the big league level.

“Very excited about the prospects of these young kids coming up. You look at the [Austin] Voths and the [Erick] Feddes and the way that they performed last year in a championship season and helped us keep the ship afloat and pitched extremely well in a pennant race, and then you run guys out there like a Wil Crowe and a Seth Romero who have shown that their stuff plays in the big leagues, that is very positive news for us moving forward, and you look at the depth of young pitchers that we have coming on the farm with the [Cade] Cavallis and the [Jackson] Rutledges and the [Joan] Adons and the [Tim] Cates and those type of guys, we feel that this organization is well-stocked for a run in our 1, 3, and 5-year windows.”

So that’s a “No” on looking for starting pitching at the deadline then?

“We’re still assessing where we are in the deadline. Suffice it to say we are comfortable with our rotation right now. That doesn’t mean that we’re not looking and if a deal suits us we won’t make a deal, but we’re always on the look to improve our ballclub, but we’re excited and happy about the prospects of our rotation not only for this year, but for years moving forward.”