Phenom Stephen Strasburg to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Stephen Strasburg to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Stephen Strasburg to Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Last week a national treasure may have been lost.  After throwing only 1,070 major league pitches, pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg found himself on the disabled list for the second time in just over a month.

Strasburg, a budding star, had taken the baseball world by storm since his much-anticipated June call up to “The Show”.  After less than a season of pitching at the highest level in baseball, Strasburg suffered a significant tear to his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.  It was recently announced that the young pitcher is done for the year, and most likely next year as well.  Strasburg will undergo “Tommy John” surgery, which replaces the damaged ligament in the elbow.  The normal recovery time from the surgery is 12 to 18 months. 

While the surgery is potentially devastating, it seems that doctors have it down to a science these days.  Numerous power pitchers in the same mold as Strasburg have undergone the surgery and bounced back.  In fact, it is now more likely that a pitcher will recover and continue their career, than it is that they will not. 

The fear with Strasburg is not necessarily that he will not recover, but that some of the magic he had captivated the baseball world with will be lost.  Billed as a once in a generation prospect, Strasburg regularly topped 100-mph with his fastball, and threw at least three above average pitches.  His sheer power and command was the cornerstone of his early dominance.  While other young pitchers have had the surgery and recovered, some have taken much longer to do so than the 12 to 18 month recovery time would suggest.

Two pitchers similar to Strasburg are Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano and Florida’s Josh Johnson.  Both pitchers have had the surgery Strasburg will undergo, however their recovery time and rebound ability have been vastly different.  When Liriano underwent the surgery, he was the darling of young baseball pitchers.  It took nearly three years for him to regain the zip on his fastball and command of his pitches he was once known for.  Johnson was less ballyhooed than either Strasburg or Liriano were, yet he recovered from the surgery is just over a year, and since his return to the mound in late 2009, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The fate of a franchise may rest in the right elbow of 23-year-old pitcher, and the Washington Nationals can only watch as they hope his recovery will be one of the success stories and not something out of a nightmare.

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