Healthy Stras 'knew something wasn't right'

February 21st, 2021

Weeks of discomfort were alleviated by a quick, 15-minute surgery that has back on track for the 2021 season.

After experiencing chronic numbness in his right thumb that spread to his hand, the 2019 World Series MVP underwent surgery last August to repair carpal tunnel neuritis. Speaking to the media for the first time since, Strasburg explained how, after exploring less-invasive options, he found the solution to help him return to the mound.

“It’s a very simple procedure, and I’m lucky that I haven’t had any residual effects from it,” Strasburg said on Sunday. “It’s pretty much been feeling great and coming out really well. I think, if anything, all the work I’ve done strengthening it has only improved the movement of my pitches.”

The tingling sensation in Strasburg’s right thumb crept in last year toward the end of the first week of Summer Camp. Some mornings, his hand would be asleep when he woke up.

The Nationals pushed back Strasburg’s season debut two starts to Aug. 9. He breezed through four innings off 43 pitches, but he exited in the fifth and noted, “To be honest, I felt it.” His next start would be his last of 2020, just two-thirds of an inning on Aug. 14 in Baltimore. He underwent season-ending surgery that month, concluding his 11th season with an 0-1 record and 10.80 ERA across five frames.

“I knew something wasn't right, so I'm glad they thought it was something specific, something that was pretty easy to fix,” Strasburg said. “I don't really try to look back too far to see why it happened. But obviously I've been throwing a baseball for a long time, and it's an injury that's from repetitive use. I was just really happy to go in, and it was like a 15-minute procedure and wake up. And even though I was all bandaged up, the numbness in my thumb just went away. I've really worked hard with our PT [physical therapy] staff all offseason to strengthen everything around it. It's definitely felt a lot better than it had for all last year.”

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Strasburg began his offseason throwing program earlier than usual this winter to give himself extra time to work through his mechanics. He started playing light catch two or three times a week in November, and he worked his way up to bullpen sessions in January.

“Endurance-wise, stamina-wise, I feel like I'm a lot further along than I have [been] in years past,” he said.

Strasburg is looking to return to form as an anchor of the Nationals’ starting rotation with Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester. (The fifth starter has yet to be announced.) The goal is to put 2020 behind him and deliver like the pitcher who led the National League with 18 wins in ‘19 before going a historic 5-0 in the postseason.

“It was tough [not having Strasburg],” manager Dave Martinez said. “Think about it: He was MVP of the World Series the year before, a big part of our success -- not only in 2019, but every year. He’s one of our workhorses, and not to see him out there was tough.

“But for me, if he was ever going to get hurt and ever fix an issue, last year would’ve been the time. I’m glad he got it fixed, and I’m glad he feels great. We’re going to move forward.”