WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg’s trip to the disabled list for elbow soreness surely rang plenty of alarm bells for Nationals fans who watched the pitcher go through Tommy John surgery in 2010.
“The recovery after each start started to get a little bit more difficult,” Strasburg said on Monday.
“I felt like I was losing range of motion and wasn’t able to get that back in between starts,” he said. “I am trying to make it better than it ever was, I guess, and hopefully that will translate into good performance down the road.”
Strasburg agreed, when asked, that his disabled list designation is “100 percent” precautionary, surely a relief to all those nervous fans. MASN color analyst F.P. Santangelo says he has witnessed Strasburg’s limited range of motion around the Nationals’ clubhouse for several weeks.
“I think the elbow’s tender. I think there’s no doubt. I’ve watched Stephen Strasburg walk around the clubhouse and his right arm is kind of at a 45 and his left arm is perfectly straight,” Santangelo told 106.7 The Fan’s Chad Dukes on Tuesday.
“I’ve noticed it for a couple of weeks now and never really said anything,” he said. “I just thought that was the result of Tommy John surgery and that’s kind of a natural thing, but he actually talked about range of motion yesterday as one of the problems and not really being able to recover now as well as he did earlier in the season between starts.”
“So I think err on the side of caution when you have an 8.5-game lead or whatever it is and just go from here, right?”
“I think there’s a lot of miles on the car this year, a lot of hard miles, with all the strikeouts and amazing performances that we’ve seen from him this year, and just kind of a whole different Stephen Strasburg on a whole different level,” he said. “And [he] scuffled recently, but I feel like that’s the thing right now in baseball, right? Andrew McCutchen with a mental break.”
“There’s been some guys in baseball that have taken the mental break sort of thing,” he added. “And even if it is a tender elbow, which I 100 percent believe it is, getting away and missing a few starts isn’t the worst thing in the world. Check out his numbers after he came off the DL for the second time last year, they were just insane.”
Indeed, Strasburg returned from his second DL stint in 2015 with electric stuff, going 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA and 92 strikeouts over his final 10 starts. Santangelo went on to note that it would be better for the Nationals to discover this soreness now as opposed to later in the season, or worse, come October in the postseason should they hold their position as division leaders.
“This is a finely tuned sports car, Stephen Strasburg,” Santangelo went on to say. “And if there’s just something a little off and he thinks it’s off, and he starts to worry about maybe he’s going down a slippery slope, and he knows what he had to go through to get back here and that whole Tommy John thing, I don’t mind that at all, especially if it’s going to make him 97, 98 in October in the playoffs.
“I mean, just do what’s best for you right now, and as long as the ball club keeps keeping this lead, then I’d rather see a strong Stephen Strasburg in September and October than maybe this happening in September or October, right?”
Unless, of course, his injury is more severe than he and the organization are letting on, or it somehow gets worse while he’s away, at which point you should throw all cautious optimism out the window and sprint yourself into an unhealthy state of panic.
But we don’t appear to be at that point, yet.