Stephen Strasburg Shut Down From All Physical Activity


Nationals veteran Stephen Strasburg’s stretch of brutal injury luck continues as The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty reports that the right-hander has been shut down from all physical activity since late April due to what was described to Dougherty as “severe” nerve damage. It had previously been reported back in February that Strasburg had suffered a setback in his recovery from thoracic outlet syndrome and the club had no timetable for his return to a major league mound. Dougherty notes that doubt is “increasing” that the 34-year-old former ace will ever be able to pitch again.

It’s a devastating continuation to the health woes that have plagued Strasburg all throughout his career. Seen as one of the most talented pitchers in the history of the draft when he was selected by the Nationals as the first overall pick in 2009, Strasburg has showcased immense talent throughout his career, but has been plagued by injuries ever since Tommy John surgery limited him to just 92 innings of work in his 2010 rookie season. Despite that surgery robbing him of his premium velocity that at times topped 100 mph as a rookie, Strasburg managed to put together a phenomenal eight-year stretch from 2012-2019, posting a 3.21 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 1,346 2/3 innings of work, though he eclipsed 180 innings in a season just three times due to continued injury woes.

Strasburg signed a seven-year, $245MM contract with the Nationals during the 2019-20 offseason, just weeks after leading the Nationals to the first World Series championship in franchise history with a dominant postseason where he posted a 1.98 ERA in 36 1/3 innings of work to go along with a top-5 finish in Cy Young award voting for his regular season performance. While his dominating 2019 season, history with the team, and pedigree as a former first overall draft pick, Cy Young finalist, and three-time All Star justified the expenditure to an extent, Strasburg’s already-lengthy injury history offered plenty of reason for concern from the moment the deal was signed.

Those concerns have borne out in what has essentially been a worst-case-scenario for the club over the past four seasons, as Strasburg has made just eight starts in that time while the franchise has entered a deep rebuild. Even during the rare moments when Strasburg has managed to return to a big league mound, the results have left much to be desired, as the aforementioned eight starts yielded a whopping 6.89 ERA, 39% below league average by measure of ERA+.

To make matters worse, Dougherty reports that the club lacks any sort of disability insurance of Strasburg’s megadeal, and it’s appearing increasingly unlikely that the Nationals will ever get any sort of significant return on their investment. While Strasburg was lightly rehabbing at Nationals Park as recently as earlier this season, Dougherty notes that a return to attempting to throw off a mound resulted in Strasburg being limited to exclusively lower-half exercise, but even that proved to be too much by the end of April.

Looking to the future, Dougherty notes that Strasburg won’t get the green light to rehab again until and unless his team of doctors believe an additional attempt to return to baseball would not impact his long-term well-being more than his current health issues already do. Last September, Strasburg acknowledged the difficulties of his injury situation, telling the Washington Post in an interview that he didn’t know “if [he’ll] ever be able to do this consistently on a major league mound again.”

Still in the midst of the rebuild that kicked off mid-way through the 2021 season, the Nationals have relied on a combination of youngsters MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, and Jake Irvin along with veterans like Trevor Williams, Patrick Corbin, and Chad Kuhl in their rotation so far in the 2023 campaign while consensus top 100 prospect Cade Cavalli joins Strasburg on the injured list, rehabbing from an early-career Tommy John surgery of his own.

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