Surgery Likely For Baseball Sensation Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg i i

Washington Nationals' starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws against the Philadelphia Phillies in the first inning of a baseball game Aug. 21 in Philadelphia. Strasburg was removed from the game after complaining of arm pain, and the Nationals now say it is likely he will have to undergo ligament replacement surgery. H. Rumph Jr./AP hide caption

itoggle caption H. Rumph Jr./AP
Stephen Strasburg

Washington Nationals' starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws against the Philadelphia Phillies in the first inning of a baseball game Aug. 21 in Philadelphia. Strasburg was removed from the game after complaining of arm pain, and the Nationals now say it is likely he will have to undergo ligament replacement surgery.

H. Rumph Jr./AP

Stephen Strasburg has a torn elbow ligament and most likely needs Tommy John surgery, bringing the pitcher's promising rookie season to an abrupt end.

Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Friday an MRI on the right elbow revealed a "significant tear." Strasburg will travel to the West Coast for a second opinion, but Rizzo anticipates the 22-year-old right-hander will need the operation that requires 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation.

In other words, Strasberg will likely miss the rest of this season and all of next season.

"I look at the bright side," Rizzo said. "Tommy John surgery is a surgery that we've had great success at. The success rate for guys coming back from Tommy John and retaining their stuff is very good."

But NPR's Mike Pesca notes that the Strasburg saga shows the risk involved in paying big money up front for young talent — especially pitching talent.

"Promising young pitchers are like Faberge eggs — dazzling, rare and fragile," Pesca says. "Although the eggs cost less."

Strasburg was pulled from Saturday's game at Philadelphia when he grimaced and shook his wrist after throwing a changeup. The Nationals initially called the injury a strained flexor tendon in the forearm, but an MRI taken Sunday raised enough questions for the Nationals to order a more extensive MRI in which dye is injected into the arm.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Strasburg struck out 14 batters in a sensational major league debut in June. He is 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings.

"No one really knows how to keep fireballers healthy," Pesca says, noting that the Nationals "followed the industry's best practices for pitcher health, and they've still been singed."

Strasburg was placed on the disabled list a month ago with inflammation in the back of his right shoulder. He was making his third start since returning from the DL when he had to leave the game against Philadelphia.

"The player was developed and cared for in the correct way, and things like this happen," Rizzo said. "Pitchers break down, pitchers get hurt and we certainly are not second-guessing ourselves. ... Frustrated? Yes. But second-guessing ourselves? No."

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