On Saturday, Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo ran into Stephen Strasburg’s dad, who was in Phoenix to watch the team play the Diamondbacks. Jim Strasburg braced Rizzo with the same question as the rest of the baseball world: What’s the deal with ending my son’s season — protecting his arm even though he feels perfectly healthy — because of some voluntary innings limit that Rizzo has chosen?
“Mr. Strasburg, don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the full answer,” Rizzo replied. “I want to hear it,” Strasburg’s father said.
The answer takes a long time. It includes decades of statistics on rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery and how annual “innings load increases” have led to disastrous re-injury in the past.
It includes the view of the surgeon, Lewis Yocum, who’s performed all the operations on Nats pitchers in recent years. It is Yocum’s belief that pitchers who break down from premature returns from elbow surgery — sometimes ruining their shoulders, and their whole careers, rather then their new elbows — don’t usually do so during the first big stress year but rather the following season. That would be 2013 in Strasburg’s case.