In lamenting how things turned out in 2021, and discussing how they went wrong, Davey Martinez talked about the first of two COVID outbreaks in Washington’s clubhouse at the start of the season, and the injuries which hit the Nationals once they started to play well during the month of June, among other things which led to a disappointing campaign.
The season-ending surgery for Stephen Strasburg, in particular, bothered the Nationals’ skipper.
Strasburg, 33, was coming off a 2020 campaign in which he was limited by a nerve issue in his wrist, eventually diagnosed as carpal tunnel neuritis, which required surgery, and the ‘19 World Series MVP started in just five games this year, dealing first with inflammation in his right shoulder, then with a neck strain, before he finally received a diagnosis of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, which necessitated another surgical procedure which ended his 12th season after a final start on June 1st.
“Strasburg having surgery, that kind of hurt me a little bit, because I really wanted Stras to go out and have a really good year,” Martinez said. “Because he really worked hard, and he is really working hard right now to get back, he wants to get back, but it was, for me — just looking at these guys that I’ve known for a while now, and going through what they’ve gone through, that’s more what I feel, more than anything else.”
Since throwing a total of 209 innings in the regular season in 2019, and an additional 36 1⁄3 in the postseason that year, (with a 1.98 ERA, four walks, and 47 Ks during the run to a World Series championship), Strasburg, who signed a 7-year/$245M deal after helping the club to the first title by a D.C.-based team since 1924, has made seven starts, and thrown just 26 2⁄3 innings over the last two seasons.
Following the latest surgery, the right-hander is rehabbing again, and the club hopes he is ready go go at the start of Spring Training 2022.
“Strasburg is doing well as well,” Martinez said over the final weekend of the regular season.
“He looks great, he’s slimmed down a lot, and he’s trying to get down weight, he’s not throwing yet, but he’s getting ready to start throwing November 2nd. But he’s doing — he said he feels really, really good, so that’s exciting for us as well.”
But considering how light the workload has been over the past two years, they’ll have to be careful with him again if he’s back on the mound in ‘22.
“I think Stras has only pitched [26 2⁄3] innings in two years,” Martinez explained. “We still got to be really careful moving forward.”
“My expectation is that following the doctors guidelines I think that he should be ready to pitch by Spring Training,” GM Mike Rizzo said in his post trade deadline talk with reporters, when asked what the team could expect from Strasburg in 2022.
“I don’t personally have a lot of experience with thoracic outlet surgery rehabilitation, and not many of us do, but I think that under the medical staff that we have and the rehab staff that we have, we’re going to get him the best that he can be, and hopefully that is ready to participate in all baseball activities at the beginning of Spring Training.”
As for the return on the first two years of Strasburg’s seven-year deal?
“You’ve never heard me say seven years for a pitcher is a good idea,” the GM said.
“They throw a baseball very, very fast, many, many times, and it’s an unnatural action, but we pick and choose who we want to give these long-term deals to, and I’ve said this many, many times, it’s the person that we’re signing, not the player, and we got ourselves a great [person] with Stras and even better player. So we are going to get the maximum out of Stephen Strasburg that we can, he’s going to be champing at the bit to get back on the mound and we expect him to work extremely hard to get back and he will and you guys know when he’s on the mound he’s as good as anybody in baseball.
“So that’s our expectation, get him back on the mound healthy, and we expect him to be a great pitcher for us.”
Rizzo talked on the final day of the season about needing the likes of Strasburg, Joe Ross, (who was shut down with a tear of the UCL in his right elbow, but didn’t have to undergo a second Tommy John surgery), and Patrick Corbin, (who struggled for a second straight season after a good start to his 6-year/$140M deal in D.C. in ‘19), to contribute more if they’re going to turn things around sooner than later in the organizational reboot the club kicked off with a flurry of moves at the trade deadline late this past July.
“I think that it’s a reasonable expectation that Strasburg and Patrick and Ross have to pitch more effectively and more often for us to quicken this reboot,” Rizzo said.
“But this thing is built on starting pitching, starting pitching depth, and that’s what we’re trying to obtain via free agency, draft, and that type of thing like we have in the past.”
Rizzo too said he heard good things about Stras on the way out the door.
“We just spoke to Stras today on getaway day, and he looks great, he feels great,” Rizzo told reporters.
“He’s going to begin throwing the beginning of next month, and our expectation is that he’s going to be pitching to prepare for the season at the beginning of Spring Training.”