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The real concern for Stephen Strasburg

The long-term implications of what happened to Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday night night are more significant than the short-term damage. The inside of Strasburg's shoulder, according to the MRI exam the Nationals gave him Tuesday night, looks the same as when the Nationals administered the test after signing him last year. "No changes," General Manager Mike Rizzo said.

The phrase Rizzo used is important to note. He didn't say Strasburg's MRI was completely clean. He just said it hadn't changed. So does that mean Strasburg had some wear and tear before he became a professional? I have not had a chance to ask Rizzo about the wording; the syntax didn't really dawn on me until after his news conference. So "no changes" may have just been the way Rizzo chose to say, "He's 100 percent fine."

But we know that Strasburg had inflammation and stiffness before. He dealt with the issue in college at San Diego State. "He's familiar with this," one Nats employee said. "He knows what that feeling is like."

Based on everything I've heard from a couple people inside and outside the organization, the stiffness and inflammation are not severe. Rizzo said on ESPN 980 this morning that Strasburg's shoulder issues are "fairly routine." He is probably going to be okay in a few days. It would be stunning if Strasburg pitched this weekend, but a normal pitcher, one who isn't 22 and one of the valuable players in the sport, probably could/would.

The broader concern: No matter how smooth and sound Strasburg's mechanics, he throws a baseball 100 mph with regularity. To put it simply, that's not something the human body is designed for. Strasburg has felt inflammation and stiffness before, and now he is feeling it again. He may be fine now, but the resurfacing of the ailment is not coincidence.

"Obviously, there's a reason for this," said one major league medical source. "Is he fatigued? There's a lot possible reasons. They are going to have to figure out why he is tight. There's no question it's a red flag. ... You can only throw 98 or 100 for so long."

Fatigue seems a likely answer. Strasburg has thrown 109 2/3 innings this season. In college last year, he threw 109. The two-out difference doesn't include all the extra bullpen sessions and side work that comes when a pitcher changes from once-every-weekend schedule in college to a professional, once-every-five days schedule. Said Rizzo, "This is a workload that he's never seen before."

We'll get a better sense tonight at the park what the Nationals are thinking, but caution will guide the decision. Wednesday afternoon on ESPN 980, Rizzo said about Strasburg's next start: "We're going to hold off on that until we see him today. But again, we're going to be ultra-cautious with him."

The Nationals exercised extreme care and vigilance last night. "I've never seen anyone get an MRI that fast," one Nationals employee said. "It was like the MRI seas parted."

The Nationals will probably hold Strasburg out for his next scheduled start, put him on the disabled list and make certain his arm feels 100 percent. That will be the easy part. The hard part will be figuring out just what made it feel less than 100 percent in the first place.

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 28, 2010; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Next: Mike Rizzo taking calls, considering options before trade deadline

Comments

I was thinking about going to Sunday's game, but now I won't because he's probably not going to pitch. However, since I almost bought tickets, I want a refund for the time and energy that I thought about buying said tickets. It is only fair and think of the great PR the Nats will get! And if it turns out that he does pitch, I will still want a refund because had I known he was going to start I would've gone. In fact, just give me a refund for all the games he was to start and now won't, even if I hadn't already bought tickets.

Man, this refund stuff is great!

Posted by: rodeorob | July 28, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

...and rodeorob wins the thread with the very first post!

Posted by: gilbertbp | July 28, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

RR has it right. I want a refund on my SS shirt, since I can't wear it to as many of his home starts as I expected when I purchased it.

Posted by: NATurallyYours | July 28, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

...plus the Nats should give me a refund for the Strasburg starts I didn't go to for various reasons, expecting he had a half-dozen or so more starts at home before getting shut down.

Any lawyers out there? I need to have the Lerners give me back some of the money I didn't spend so I can not go to more of their ball games and not buy more of their eight-dollar beer. I need a GOOD lawyer, someone like Chainsaw Swenson, who was last seen working for P.D.Q. Bach.

Posted by: gilbertbp | July 28, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I googled Miss Iowa 2010 and Miss Universe 2010 and while Miss Universe is certainly striking, I'm not certain I wouldn't take the date with Miss Iowa. Of course I've never seen either Strasburg or Batista in a bathing suit but neither one of them is making the cut if the the competition includes one of the Misses ...

Posted by: natbiscuits | July 28, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

But on topic - has arm wear been an issue for all hard throwers? Is it a factor of Strasburg's relatively young age? Obviously, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan had very long careers, but they had lower IPs in their first couple of years. Not saying Strasburg's one of them, but certainly many of the game's analysts' think he's something special. Should we expect that this is something he can get past, or at least work around?

Posted by: NATurallyYours | July 28, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Remember way back when in the oh so long ago innocent days of yore when the overarching concern was whether shutting down Strasburg at his innings limit before season's end would jeopardize the Nats' playoff chances were they to find themselves in a pennant race?

Memories.
Like the corners of my mind.
Misty water-colored memories.
Of the way we were.

Scattered pic-tures.....

Posted by: Ted_Striker | July 28, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, though, excellent catch on Rizzo's choice of words, Adam. This is what REAL reporters do - listen to what's being said, listen for what's NOT being said, and dig for the truth. Please follow up on this.

It would be nice if reporters who cover Capitol Hill similarly questioned some of the hot air that comes from that place, instead of just taking dictation.

Posted by: gilbertbp | July 28, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Striker:
Thanks for the ear-worm - I want a refund for the time & effort it's going to take me to find & acquire the music (& therapy) I'll now need to get Streisand out of my skull!

Posted by: BinM | July 28, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"You can only throw 98 or 100 for so long." Right. The question is, "how long?" Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson did it for 20 years. When you consider that not too many people can throw that hard in the first place, I think it's a little misleading to suggest that throwing 98-100 makes injury more likely than throwing 92-94.

I'm definitely curious to hear if Rizzo's wording was meant to suggest that there was something abnormal when they signed Strasburg.

Posted by: jcj5y | July 28, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

And so it begins!

Posted by: stwasm | July 28, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

This could only happen to the Nationals. Oy vey!

Posted by: richs91 | July 28, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

For you, BinM:

CHORUS:

Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

Fine little girl waits for me
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that ship about, all alone
Never know if I make it home

CHORUS

Three nights and days I sail the sea
Think of girl, constantly
On that ship, I dream she's there
I smell the rose in her hair.

CHORUS

Okay, let's give it to 'em, right now!

GUITAR SOLO

See Jamaica, the moon above
It won't be long, me see me love
Take her in my arms again
Tell her I'll never leave again

CHORUS

Let's take it on outa here now
Let's go!!

Posted by: gilbertbp | July 28, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm only going to want my money back when some ugly fat f__k barfs on my kids this weekend.

Just kidding, I don't have kids.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 28, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Humans are designed to pitch no faster than 95 mph. I hoid it through the grapevine.

Posted by: richs91 | July 28, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

This could only happen to the Nationals. Oy vey!

Posted by: richs91 | July 28, 2010 1:34 PM

Or the Marlins

Marlins' Josh Johnson undergoes Tommy John surgery
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2007-08-04-2283062247_x.htm

2010 Predictions: Florida Marlins' Josh Johnson will win NL Cy Young
http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/fantasy/story?id=4797711

Posted by: Kev29 | July 28, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

i hate how this has turned into such a big deal. Alot pitchers get this sore and just cant get loose. 109 innings is a workload esp for Strasburgs first season when he gets use to pitching more innings he'll be fine

Posted by: cjdwolfpack | July 28, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

What about the innings he pitched in spring training? Do they count?

If he was in Cincinnati or the North Side of Chicago, Stras would have pitched last night. Count your blessings, Nats fans.

Posted by: tennesseemoonshiner | July 28, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Clemens blew out his shoulder in his second season and bounced back to win 24 games and the Cy Young the following year. Boston knew when it drafted him that he had some wear with his shoulder in college and ultimately required surgery. Not to be a be a glass is half empty type of person, but Strasburg may be more like Clemens than Nolan Ryan. At some point in their career, almost every ace pitcher has arm problems and that includes Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Johan Santana. All had injuries and surgeries but resumed their careers. Johnson had serious back problems much of his career so he is probably not a good example.

Obviously, the Nats don't want Strasburg to become another Kerry Wood, but are we overreacting to a minor ailment? Even if he doesn't pitch again this year, won't he be fine for 2011? It's not like the Nats were contending for a playoff spot this year. Let Strasburg rest, rehab, and be ready to pitch sometime in August.

Posted by: wizfan89 | July 28, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

In a related story, Bryce Harper swung so hard hitting a 400 foot home run that he tore a muscle in his shoulder and will start next season on the DL.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 28, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Ditto to BinM on the ear worm, and thanks to gilbert for making it better.

Posted by: skidge | July 28, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

@Wizfan89...
Yeah, but everyone you cited (especially Clemans, but possibly not Santana) was on the roids. Stras will have no such advantage.

Posted by: genericOnlineID | July 28, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

haha, Clemans

Posted by: genericOnlineID | July 28, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Prediction: we've seen Stras throw for the last time this year. They were going to shut him down in August anyway, even if we were in playoff contention (which I think would require us to go undefeated in August...but I digress...). So they just shut him down a couple of weeks early and get him on a PT regimen to strengthen the shoulder -- and then he comes back and throws 110 1/3 innings next year...

Posted by: gr8day4bsbll | July 28, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Mike Leake is a starting pitcher for Cincinnati. He is a rookie that never spent one day in the minors. He pitched 142 innings last year in college and has 120 this year in the bigs. He is 7-2, with an amazing 10 no-decisions. He is also hitting .366. Mike Leake is a pitcher, Stephen Strasburg is becoming a sideshow.

Posted by: kieran2001 | July 28, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

If he falls anywhere on the Clements to Ryan spectrum I will make due and give up my refund rights.

Posted by: markfromark | July 28, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Get a grip kieran2001. SS is the man. Don't think Leake is selling out stadiums now is he? I think we all now Leake is a starting pitcher for the Reds and is very good.

When his pitching days are done, Leake could move to the American league as a DH :)

Posted by: fearturtle44 | July 28, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This is a particularly entertaining thread, especially compared to all the gnashing of teeth over at NI this morning about the booing of Batista. Thanks guys.

My view is that we haven't seen the last of SS this year unless he is truly injured. There's good reason for him pitch some more innings so he can continue to build up his arm strength and hopefully turn into a 200 inning per year guy in a few years.

Alternate ear worm:

Truckin', like the do-dah man. Once told me "You've got to play your hand"
Sometimes your cards ain't worth a dime, if you don't lay'em down,

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurres to me What a long, strange trip it's been.

Posted by: Section222 | July 28, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

As a matter of fact, what's up wih Bryce Harper??? Haven't heard a thing. Strasburg will be alright btw, He's tired is all. If he would've signed earlier last year like Storen he's have more miles on that arm from pitching in A ball and he'd be stronger. But whatever, he'll be good to go soon enough. How about Storen last night. That's what you want to see from a pitcher!! Now trade Capps and get an up and coming 2nd baseman like Jason Donald.

Posted by: Dog-1 | July 28, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Good grief. Mr. Kilgore needs a dose of Will Carroll (baseballprospectus.com). There's probably never BEEN a pitcher who arrives in the major leagues without "wear and tear" on his arm. The trick is in documenting how much it is, what the risk going forward is, and then watching to see what changes there are from that baseline. To be shocked that he wasn't hatched from the head of Zeus with a pristine shoulder is totally naive. In previous eras (and still, for the most part), we had no idea what was going on inside a pitcher's arm until it all fell apart. That didn't mean they all weren't ticking time bombs.

That said, I'm plenty in favor of severely limiting his starts this year, DL-ing him liberally, whatever it takes to maximize the chance that he's pitching on a Nats team that has something hanging in the balance (besides ticket sales).

Posted by: B2O2 | July 28, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I really can't blame them for being so cautious with the kid. He seems like a pretty special talent and they have a TON invested in his future being successful.
College programs notriously overwork their best arms(Ben McDonald) and its best to err on the side of caution.
As I'm a Pirates' fan, I don't say this to be insulting but why would they risk him? The Nats are out of it so why risk his future(his contract is guaranteed)?
Shut him down for the season, add some more players in the offseason and let him come back fully healthy in the spring.
It isn't going to impact a playoff run for them.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | July 28, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

question

whatever happened to Aaron Crow, the unsigned 1st pick a couple of years ago?
with the trade deadline approaching and speculation about rizzo's ability as a gm, and i know that wasn't rizzo's pick, i haven't heard crow's named mentioned in baseball talk. does that mean it was a good no-sign? or maybe i just missed the info.

Posted by: joerutgens72 | July 28, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

You know, reading and hearing all the alarm and over-analysis in the Post, WTEM, etc .. it's kind of hard to argue with Dwayne Wade's conclusion that what counts for sports journalism these days is to make a 911 event out of anything. As others have noted here, for every worry in the column, there are countless exceptions. I'd give a column to the Nats' admin who noted that the MRI seas parted .. I think h/s would write some good stuff.

Posted by: tslats | July 28, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh how we miss the days of Shirley Povich and some more savvy heads. News is about creation of the story rather than reporting on one, as was so artfully discussed above. The kid's a competitor and wants to pitch, the GM is paid to build a ball club, and because athletes are now more pampered than doctors, nurses, and teachers who got said athletes where they are today, it becomes a national worry. NO pun intended. The kid will be fine. I'd worry more about taking care of our current lineup and not trading our current Hondo...

Posted by: msuic76 | July 28, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"There's no question it's a red flag. ... You can only throw 98 or 100 for so long."

Yeah, Nolan Ryan only lasted 27 years.

Posted by: greggiebaba | July 28, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

You know? Tommy John had Tommy John surgery. Now what are the odds of that happening. This is too scary. I'd shut Stras down for the season right now.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | July 28, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse


I said as much when Strasburg pitched his first game.

Young fastball pitchers with nothing but a fastball burn out quick, mighty quick. I figured the kid would at least make it through a season.

Posted by: screwjob18 | July 28, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

i was a lefty that never made the big show.side armer,98 but no real contacts thru my caree as i worked as an electrican full time, my point is this kid with the the nats seems to be a feeble attempt to im prove attendence.they ary going to burn him up to sell seats.what a shame. jim

Posted by: jmeeks6scrrcom | July 29, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

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