Strasburg has flexor strain, ‘not a season-ending injury’
Pitcher’s ligament intact, but timetable for return unclear
WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg’s ulnar collateral ligament is intact. The Washington Nationals pitcher does not need another Tommy John surgery. His season might not be over yet, though it might be, because Strasburg — who left Wednesday night’s game in the third inning after feeling a “pinch in the back of his elbow,” according to his manager — does have a strain of the flexor mass in his right elbow, and his timetable for a return is unclear.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he “did a lot of praying” Wednesday night that the injury was not as bad as it could have been. On Thursday, he agreed it was accurate to call this news the best-case scenario. When pitchers have elbow pain, something is wrong. If something is wrong, better a flexor mass strain than something worse — though the Nationals will follow team protocol and send Strasburg to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Yocum group for a second opinion, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.
“Everybody’s pretty satisfied of where we are at this point, and it’s very good to know,” Baker said. “Exactly the timetable we don’t know, but it’s good to hear that it wasn’t what everybody was speculating that it was.”
Trainer Paul Lessard delivered the news to reporters around 4 p.m. Thursday.“I know everyone was concerned that he reinjured that Tommy John ligament, and the answer is no,” Lessard said. “The ligament is good.”
Strasburg had been dealing with right elbow discomfort for the past three weeks, enough of it that the Nationals placed him on the disabled list. Forty-two pitches into his first game back, he was walking off the mound with more discomfort, though Lessard said this pain was different than the swelling in the “posterior” of the elbow that caused that DL stint.
Strasburg did not undergo an MRI for that August discomfort because the Nationals did not see any signs of lingering trouble in his delivery or velocity. He had an MRI before he signed his seven-year, $175 million extension in May, and Lessard did not see any major differences between Thursday’s MRI and that one.
Importantly, Lessard also identified the injury as “an acute injury, versus an overuse injury.” In other words, the official word from the Nationals is that Strasburg suffered this particular injury on that pitch to Mike Foltynewicz on Wednesday.
Lessard said the next four or five days would be crucial as the time frame in which he and his staff would hope to reduce inflammation and help Strasburg regain “pain-free range of motion.” But Lessard would not project much from there.
“Normally, [these injuries] come around very well with treatment and strengthening,” he said. “It’s not a season-ending injury, but we still need to take time that he’s nice and strong because of his past.”