Friday, August 27, 2010

Sad Day In NatsTown--Strasburg To Undergo Surgery

The announcement came like a ton of bricks falling down--possibly overshadowing the remainder of the season for Our Washington Nationals. Mike Rizzo announcing Stephen Strasburg has a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament that will probably require Tommy John Surgery. No matter how prepared anyone could be to hear such saddening news, Our General Manager's opening statement this morning via conference call with reporters was still stunning to hear. Washington's phenom pitcher--The Number 1 Overall Pick in the 2009 Draft--the very same young man that electrified The Nation's Capital and Major League Baseball in his dazzling debut--now out for somewhere between 12 and 18 months. Strasburg to get a second opinion in Los Angeles from Dr. Lewis Yocum--who also operated on Jordan Zimmermann and Chad Cordero. Interestingly, Mike Rizzo alluded in the presser that Our Washington Nationals and their doctors believe this injury might have resulted from the stress of one pitch--Strasburg's changeup. But nothing yet is conclusive.

Here is the complete transcript from today's conference call. Mike Rizzo was joined by Team President Stan Kasten. At times, it was hard to understand some of the questions as a few radio stations dialing in had put their phones on hold--putting their ON-Air Programming into the pool call. And a handful of others calling in didn't have the courtesy to mute their phones--and were jabbering away--constantly.

Mike Rizzo: Hello guys. We have an announcement here from The Washington Nationals Front Office. After reviewing the arthrogram last night, we’ve come to the conclusion, our medical team, that Stephen Strasburg has a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament that will probably require Tommy John Surgery. He’s been seen by multiple doctors physically. And then had a dry MRI the day after he (last) pitched on Sunday. The dry MRI showed up things we thought were significant to led us to an MRI Arthrogram on his right elbow. The MRI arthrogram was given yesterday and reviewed. We got the results late last night. And Stephen requested that we do not break the news last night--because he didn’t want to rain on Bryce Harper’s parade--if you will. So, We are going to take this news. We are going to persevere. We are going to move on. We are going to get our rotation in tact. And when Stephen Strasburg returns, he will join Jordan Zimmermann and the rest of our good young rotation--then we will be ready and prepared for the 2011 season and beyond with Stephen Strasburg.

Stephen is going to be flying to the west coast to get an second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum--who is the surgeon that did the Tommy John Surgery on Jordan Zimmermann. He will be seen in California and we will make our final decision after that.

Question: After the second opinion is given Mike, do you have any idea how soon surgery might take place and how soon Strasburg might be coming back?

Rizzo: We are going to let Lew Yocum take a look at Stephen and his film and we will take the appropriate action after that. We are not going to drag this out. If the second opinion is surgery, we will certainly have surgery as soon as maybe the next day.

Followup: If I could follow up on that Mike. How crushing is this for you?

Rizzo: Well it’s depressing in a sense, but I look at the brighter side. I look at Tommy John Surgery as a surgery we have had great success. We’ve got a good, powerful, young 23-year old right handed pitcher with power stuff. The success rate for guys coming back from Tommy John and retaining that stuff is very good. We saw two examples of it on the mound yesterday here at Nationals Park with Chris Carpenter and (Jordan) Zimmermann. We’ve seen the same with Tim Hudson coming back from Tommy John Surgery in Atlanta.

We are certainly on one side, unfortunate, that he will have to have Tommy John Surgery. On the other side, it certainly could be worse. It could have been his shoulder, his labrum or something like that--where we don’t have as much of a successful track record on.

Question: Is the belief the injury occurred over one pitch? Or is there anything to show something had been building up to that point?

Rizzo: That’s a really difficult question for the doctors to answer. I asked the question myself. They think that it was an acute injury from a particular pitch. But you can’t rule out there was something there. Our doctors, looking at the film, looking at the type of tear that Stephen has, it probably was from a one-pitch incident that tore the ligament.

Question: Mike, when Stephen had his last MRI, was that just on his shoulder?

Rizzo: We’ve had several films on his shoulder as a baseline MRI and he’s had MRI’s on his shoulder since then also. The shoulder, we are not concerned about the shoulder.

Question: But when he had the MRI that showed he had inflammation in the shoulder, did you just look at his shoulder and not his elbow at that point? Is that correct?

Rizzo: That’s correct.

Question: Strasburg has talked about having something similar when he was at San Diego State. Was this a problem that began back then, or was this something completely different?

Rizzo: He said that he had felt this before. He said this when we discussed it with him. It was probably a different feeling he had. He felt a little grab back at San Diego State, but it certainly wasn’t the grimace and the effect of what happened on the mound in Philadelphia (last Saturday).

Stan Kasten: Part of the challenge of this past week has been that Stephen felt pretty good. He still feels OK. And that is why this has been so confounding when it came to the prognosis. We know that Jordan Zimmerman pitched for nearly a month last year with a condition. Until we had the conclusive test, we really couldn’t tell for sure. I don’t know what Stephen felt for three years pitching in college, he did pitch through it. But it seems clear, whatever it felt like, it was a different thing because we did an MRI when we signed him (Strasburg) a year ago--which was at that time, pristine. And as of yesterday, very different.

Question: How slim is the chance the second opinion will show anything else and he doesn’t need the Tommy John?

Rizzo: We’ve got the dry MRI. We’ve got the MRI Arthrogram. We’ve got two doctors opinions. So we feel there is a significant tear and there is going to be Tommy John Surgery. Now Lew Yocum is the foremost expert in this area and we are certainly going to listen to what he says. But I anticipate Stephen is going to have Tommy John Surgery.

Question: Mike, are we talking the usual prognosis--a rehab of 12 to 18 months?

Rizzo: Yes. We feel it should be a typical Tommy John rehabilitation and we’ve had successful ones here in the past and we feel this one will be no different. Stephen is going to be a dedicated, focused, individual as I spoke to him late last night. He turned from being upset to being really focused and really ready to take on this new thing in his life that he’s going to have to go out and attack his rehab and get ready to pitch even better than he has in the past.

Kasten: Guys, let me clarify something. When we got this news yesterday, we were also here with Scott Boras, who we were working with yesterday. And you should know, and Scott shared this with us, I don’t know the whole number, but he had a long, long list of many of his own clients who had come through this surgery very successfully. So that was a usual thing in reassuring Stephen. And it was Mike, me and Scott--in addition to Stephen’s thought--that whenever we get this news--let’s hold off (on releasing the news). I don’t want to leave the impression this was Stephen saying hold off until the morning. I think he agreed with that. But we all felt, given what was going on yesterday, there wasn’t any reason to do this announcement until this morning.

Question: Is this frustrating in any way and is there anything you feel you could have done differently to avoid this outcome?

Rizzo: Frustrated, yes. I would describe it as frustrating because injuries to pitchers happen to people you think it couldn’t happen to. This player was developed and cared for the correct way and he was developed in the correct way. Things like this happen, pitchers break down, pitchers get hurt, but we are certainly not second guessing ourselves. We have developed a lot of pitchers this way and we are satisfied with the way he was developed. Scott Boras is satisfied he’s been treated and developed. And Stephen is also. We are good with that. Frustrated, yes, but second guessing ourselves--No.

Question: How has Stephen Strasburg taken the news?

Rizzo: Well, as you can imagine, he was very upset--initially upset at the news. But he’s really turned himself from being upset to being focused on his rehabilitation. He’s determined to get after this--get the surgery done--and to begin the process of rehabilitation. He’s been informed of what the process will entail and he’s ready to attack it.

Kasten: And guys, we will make him available to the media at some point. Today, I don’t think is a good day with that. We are still processing and figuring out where we are going to go. But we will get him in front of all of you. There won’t be a problem there. I don’t now if we will do it before the surgery--or before the second opinion. But at some point, as soon as we can, we do expect to have him available for all of you to talk to.

Question: Stan, did you have a chance to talk with Strasburg?

Kasten: I was in the room on Monday when the others were talking to him when these questions first arose. He was upset, Monday. I was with Scott as we discussed it with him yesterday. And Scott described what we all saw on Monday. Sure, this is tough news for a kid with this kind of future and this kind of expectations he puts on himself. He’s a high achievement oriented kid. But he’s also a kid that can dedicate himself to getting to where he needs to get to. So like I said, yeah, it’s a tough day for him and all of us and for everyone that is a Nats Fan, but we saw Jordan come back last night. And a year from today, Stephen will be joining him along with the other 24 guys that we feel very good about for next year. Frustrated, disappointed, but I think he’s had, like Mike and I have had--starting Monday processing all of this--it’s easier for us today than it was on Monday. And I think for all our fans and all of his teammates, it will be easier in a couple of days than it might be today.

With that final answer--the Sad Day In NatsTown-- Strasburg To Undergo Surgery Conference Call concluded.


HondoFan said...

Sad day for the young man and Nats fans. All we can do is hope for a speedy and full recovery. Still, nothing will change that night on June 8th and what we witnessed.

Laurie said...

We are sorry to hear the news and we wish him a speedy surgery and rehab.

SenatorNat said...

Yesterday will be viewed by those in Nats' organization as an unforgetable day - the Strasburg devastating news juxtaposed with Harper announcing himself in a very big way and Jordan Zimmermann proving that Strasburg can actually recover and be back sooner than later, so-to-speak.

The professional, family-styled way in which it is being handled by Kasten and Rizzo lends credence to the fact that the Nationals now have earned reputation as professional, first-class organization - undoubtedly, the unusual bonding that has occurred by Rizzo with Boros may prove to be a true ace-in-the hole for team as it goes out into free agency this season and beyond.

Now - it is time for Fast Eddie, et al to recongnize that putting real money into the equation this off-season to fortify the team for 2011 is an imperative. At current rate, team will probably win around 65 games this year, hardly a big jump from the past two miserable seasons.

Next year, without Strasburg and Livo another year older, the starting rotation will require a major free agent signing, and the everyday lineup a legitimate power hitting outfielder and a credible second-baseman, in order to have any shot at approaching .500 in the teams' 7th season in D.C. and fourth in new park.

Should team sign Dunn for 3 years ($39 million), they still need to make these other additions - should they not, they need to acquire a power-hitting first-baseman too.

It is easy to conceive team, at the end of the day, not resigning Dunn, replacing him with "younger, more athletic" (i.e. less expensive, less powerful). If they do not show two proven high-level free agents, they will be in a world of hurt from turned-off fans, and that 8,500 season ticket base will surely shrink even more.

Building this team around two second-year players, and two totally untested rookies everyday is unfair to Z-Man, fans, and the rest of the team. Now is not the time to use the uncertain investment in Strasburg as an excuse to become even more frugal - the fanbase is too small already. Some bread cast on the water has to occur this off-season or the consequences may be the loss of even the core.

Trust in Boros giving Nationals "friends of Scott" discount. And that check being in the mail. And he shall certainly loves us in the morning.