WASHINGTON — Nationals fans are gripped with fear, awaiting an update on the apparent injury Stephen Strasburg suffered Wednesday evening, an injury severe enough to force him out of the game after two and one-third innings.
Former MLB pitcher Mike Stanton offered his perspective on 106.7 The Fan’s Grant & Danny Show. Baseball fans in D.C. may remember Stanton best for his Nationals debut, when he balked home the game-winning run against the Brewers.
“I know that the post-game sound from Dusty, he basically said [Strasburg] felt a pinch in the back of his elbow,” Stanton said on Thursday. “The way I saw it… man, that was more than a pinch. It was. I mean you saw his body mannerisms, you saw his facial expressions, you saw him walk off the mound with his glove half over his face. Didn’t stay and talk to the media afterwards. Those are all red flags.”
Stanton wonders — while making clear he didn’t want to speculate — why the Nationals hadn’t examined Strasburg’s elbow sooner, which is, in fairness to the organization, an unverifiable claim as there’s no evidence they did not.
“If there is a real injury, if there is something structurally wrong with his elbow, why wasn’t this done earlier? Why didn’t you look?” Stanton said. “Now, Dusty did say that he didn’t feel like it was in the same area as the problem he was having before, but listen. The elbow is not a very big part of the body. You can have deferred pain from one part to the other very, very easily. So that would be the first question.
“These Major League Organizations, they throw around MRIs like you’re getting your teeth cleaned,” Stanton said. “I mean, it’s no big deal. They MRI everything. Every hamstring that goes down, what’s the first thing they do? They throw ’em in the MRI tube. And all they’re going to find out is, ‘Oh, it’s a pulled hamstring.’ Why wouldn’t you do the same thing to the elbow? I just don’t get why. I know he had the MRI in May, but you’re going to tell me things can’t change from May to September? Of course they can. So that would be one of the big things to me, is why would you penny-pinch on a guy making $200 million, or just short of $200 million when you MRI everything? Makes no sense to me.”
Strasburg is a former Tommy John surgery recipient, undergoing the procedure in 2010. He has, already, experienced the physical and mental grind of working his way back from the major surgery, but, should he need a second surgery, one might wonder if it would be a taller task the second go-around for him to rebuild trust in his arm and throwing ability.
“Well, the thing is, you talk to any doctor, and as soon as you have your first Tommy John, you’re starting the clock to the second one,” Stanton said.
“Some guys never have it. Their stuff deteriorates, they get older and they just end their career. But the clock has been started. It’s inevitable. When you start changing the anatomy of joints… and that’s basically what you’re doing with Tommy John because you’re replacing ligaments. Even the way they do it now with double and tripling the ligament, and braiding the ligament, all the different stuff that they do in Tommy John, it’s still not your natural ligament, it’s not what God put in there, okay?
“So eventually it’s gonna break down again. And we’ve seen a rash of second Tommy Johns and guys doing it sometimes not even getting back from the first one. It takes time. There’s no shortcuts here. That’s part of the rehab process. It’s not just the physical part of getting prepared to throw a baseball again, but it’s also the mental part. ”
“When I missed all of 1990,” Stanton said. “Now, it was not an elbow, it was a shoulder, but I got to a point that I just had to go, ‘Okay. You know what? I got to cut it loose. If I’m gonna play baseball, I have to let if fly. And if it’s gonna break, it’s gonna break. If not, you know, God was on my side. And, guess what? It didn’t break. I ended up having a long, blessed career. Strasburg can do that, too.”