Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery

Rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg has a significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and will likely undergo Tommy John surgery, the Nationals announced in a conference call on Friday.

Strasburg, who was originally placed on the disabled list because of a flexor strain in his right forearm, had an arthrogram performed on Thursday to determine if something is seriously wrong, and doctors found ligament damage in the elbow.

“He is going to go out and attack his rehab and get ready to pitch better than he has in the past,” general manager Mike Rizzo said.

Strasburg will seek a second opinion from Dr. Louis Yocum in Southern California before the Nationals make a final decision on surgery. But the club believes that surgery is necessary. Strasburg is expected to be 100 percent in between 12 and 18 months.

“We feel there is a significant tear and there is going to be Tommy John surgery,” Rizzo said. “Louis Yocum is one of the leading experts in this field. We are certainly going to listen to what he says, but I anticipate Stephen will have Tommy John surgery.”

The Nationals knew about the test results as early as Thursday afternoon, but Strasburg requested that the release of the news be delayed because he didn’t want to put a damper on the news conference introducing Bryce Harper — taken by the Nats No. 1 overall in this June’s First-Year Player Draft — to the media.

“We are going to take this news, persevere, move on and get our rotation intact,” Rizzo said. “It’s depressing, but I look at the brighter side. I look to Tommy John as a surgery that has great success.

“We have a big, powerful 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 with Chris Carpenter and Jordan Zimmermann. We saw Tim Hudson come back from Tommy John surgery in Atlanta.”

According to a baseball source, Strasburg was devastated when told he may have Tommy John surgery. According to the source, Strasburg said, “What are you talking about? I feel fine. I feel nothing.”

Strasburg, who was not available for comment, hurt his forearm on Saturday in an 8-1 Nationals victory over the Phillies. With the Nats leading, 5-1, and one out in the fifth, Strasburg was facing Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown when — on a 1-1 pitch — he grimaced in pain and shook his right arm.

Strasburg then motioned for the Nationals’ trainer to come to the mound. Manager Jim Riggleman, pitching coach Steve McCatty and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz came out to see what was wrong with Strasburg, who wanted to stay in the game but left a few moments later.

On Sunday, Strasburg underwent an MRI on the forearm, and the team doctor didn’t like what he saw, so Strasburg had to wait until the swelling subsided before undergoing an arthrogram.

Almost immediately, Strasburg became the ace of the Nationals’ staff, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in the first 12 starts of his career. He currently leads the Nationals in strikeouts with 92.

This marks the second time Strasburg has needed to be shut down because of an injury. On July 28, Strasburg was scratched from his start against the Braves after experiencing right shoulder stiffness during his warmups in the bullpen.

Instead, reliever Miguel Batista made the spot start for Washington and delivered a brilliant effort, throwing five scoreless innings in his first start of the season to help the Nationals shut out Braves, 3-0.

Strasburg, the No 1. overall pick in the 2009 Draft, was warming up just minutes before that game when McCatty and Kuntz noticed that something was wrong with the righty after eight pitches. Strasburg told McCatty that he was stiff but could pitch in the game.

Riggleman and Rizzo were informed of Strasburg’s arm issue, and Rizzo pulled the plug on Strasburg’s start. Strasburg was placed on the DL the next day.

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