WASHINGTON — The Nationals will have to keep a watchful eye on Stephen Strasburg, closely monitoring the pitcher’s elbow as he enters his eighth big league season.
After finishing last year on the disabled list, missing the final month of the regular season and then all of the post with a strained flexor mass, Strasburg seemed to be creeping dangerously close to a second Tommy John surgery. That would be devastating to his career, and for the Nationals, who signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension in 2016.
Chris O’Leary, an expert on pitching mechanics, worries Stasburg suffering another Ulnar Collateral Ligament tear has reached a point of near inevitability.
“In terms of Strasburg, I don’t see any video of him pitching off a mound, but I’ve seen video of him long-tossing,” O’Leary told The Sports Junkies on Tuesday. “And I don’t see any evidence that anything has changed.”
“And the problem with a flexor mass strain is that’s a very reliable precursor to Tommy John surgery, because when the Ulnar Collateral Ligament — which is the ligament that’s replaced in the surgery — when that starts to stretch out and loosen up, that transfers the load to the flexor pronator mass and tends to overload that,” he said.
“Pain in the forearm, pain in the flexor mass or some sort of a muscle strain in the forearm is a sadly pretty reliable indicator of an Ulnar Collateral Ligament that’s stretching out, so I’m very nervous about Strasburg,” he said.
“It was the right thing to shut him down. It was the right thing to not push him and try to reactivate, but I’m not hopeful about Strasburg. I think he’s a ticking time bomb. I think it’s just a matter of time for Strasburg, because, as you said, nothing’s changed, so I don’t see why anything’s going to change.”