National Post (Latest Edition)

Strasburg confident numbness behind him

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WASHINGTON • Since he was last seen on a baseball field, exiting in the middle of the first inning last August, Stephen Strasburg had carpal tunnel surgery, started his winter program a bit earlier than usual, then arrived at spring training to rejoin the Washington Nationals’ rotation.

He has already thrown one bullpen session in West Palm Beach, Fla., and is on track for another. If that goes well, there will be another. Then another.

And then, the Nationals hope, he’ll begin the regular season and find himself again.

“The numbness in my thumb just went away,” Strasburg said Sunday, speaking to reporters for the first time since Aug. 9, 2020. “I’ve really worked hard with our PT staff all off-season to strengthen everything around it. It’s definitely felt a lot better than it had for all last year.”

Strasburg says the August surgery lasted about 15 minutes. After it, with his thumb bandaged, he only had to rest before easing into his off-season throwing routine.

But just the sight of him distressed last summer — shaking his hand behind the mound, mouth stuck in a grimace — was extra concerning for Washington.

Strasburg has battled major and minor injuries through an 11-year career.

At 32, before his first full season since winning World Series MVP, he was used to adjusting for elbow soreness, shoulder inflammati­on or a nerve impingemen­t in his neck. Mending is second nature by now.

The surgery timing was good in that it came in an otherwise down year for the club. It was bad, though, in that it was required two appearance­s after Strasburg signed a seven-year, US$245 million contract. He faced 23 batters total in 2020. A reversion to 2019, when Strasburg was more durable than he had been in a half decade, would go a long way.

“I aggravated it every time I tried to throw and basically would go from numbness in my thumb to numbness in my whole hand,” Strasburg said. “I don’t really try to look back too far to see why it happened. But obviously I’ve been throwing a baseball for a long time and it’s an injury that’s from repetitive use.”

No parts of Strasburg’s delivery were changed by the surgery. Neither were any of his pitch grips. He says there are “no residual effects,” and manager Dave Martinez has echoed that since workouts began Thursday.

Strasburg should face teammates this week before exhibition­s start Feb. 28.

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Stephen Strasburg

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