The last word out of Spring Training on Stephen Strasburg, who is progressing towards his return from last summer’s surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, was that the now 33-year-old righty was tinkering with returning to using a windup, five years after he ditched it, and just started pitching exclusively out of the stretch.
“There’s a flow to the windup, and he has liked how it’s felt,” Nationals’ pitching Coach Jim Hickey told Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty, when asked about some things they were experimenting with as the 2009 No. 1 overall pick worked in West Palm Beach, FL.
“But it’s only two bullpens so far. You may see him trying it when he’s facing live hitters again. But right now he’s just testing it out.”
Though it was still early in the process, Hickey liked what he saw.
“Right now it’s about feeling his mechanics a little more,” Hickey told the Washington Post beat writer. “Then we’ll see whether it’s something moving forward.”
While the rest of the club was preparing to head to D.C. for the start of the regular season, Strasburg determined early this spring he was better off moving at his usual, normal, six-week Spring Training pace, not pushing it this year after the injuries he’s dealt with the past few seasons, which have limited him to a total of seven starts and 26 2⁄3 innings pitched in the two seasons which followed the team’s run to the World Series championship in 2019, which ended with the righty was named the MVP of the Fall Classic.
“I’m not too far from getting back in a game and getting built up from there,” Strasburg told MLB.com’s Bill Ladson in late March. “I’m just really working on strength and stuff right now.
“It’s been a longer process of building up the stamina, being able to not only go out there and throw, but bounce back, recover, and feel good and feel like everything is working properly. ... [It has to be] pain free in the recovery window that is needed.”
In advance of the series opener on Thursday, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the Fan in D.C.’s Sports Junkies Strasburg was progressing nicely as he worked to get up with the big league club.
“Stras came into the shortened Spring Training in Spring Training-prepared-to-pitch mode,” Rizzo told the Junkies, but with the truncated, three-week ramp-up, the club and the starter decided to take things slowly.
“He got out of the chute really fast, and then we had to slow him down, because it was too fast, and too short of a situation, but he’s throwing, he stayed back in Florida, he’s working really hard in Florida to get [himself] stretched out. He feels good, we’ve done a good job with the pitching coaches and our pitching analysts to tweak his delivery and get him in a comfortable delivery mode where it takes pressure off his arm, and he’s feeling good about it. He’s doing the build-up process in Spring Training and doing well.”
Rizzo was asked when we might expect to see Strasburg back on the mound in the majors?
Could he return by May 1st?
“I think that’s a possibility,” Rizzo said, before offering a note of caution.
“I don’t want to put any timetables on it, because I haven’t seen him pitch in the last two days, but we’re going to run him out there when we think he’s ready, and health-wise he feels good.”
Talking with reporters in advance of the second game of the season on Friday afternoon, the GM in D.C. reiterated that, “Stephen is progressing as planned.”
“His program is in place,” Rizzo said, “and his progression will be we’re going to stretch him out, he’ll throw live bullpens, like always, then he’ll throw in some games, and he’ll do his rehab starts in the minor leagues, and then when we feel like he’s ready, stretched out, we’ll bring him here.”
He still wasn’t offering any timetables, however.
“I’m not going to put a date on it. We’re going to monitor him and see where he’s at, and his input will have a lot to do with where we’re at.”