Strasburg's long road back to Major League mound

June 9th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato's Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months eventually turned into a year. After a while, long-term outlooks shifted to daily checklists.

“It’s hard to look at calendars, because you don’t really know what the future’s going to be like,”  recently said. “I’ll look at what I’ve got to do tomorrow, and that’s about it.”

One year and six days since Strasburg (thoracic outlet recovery) last pitched in a Major League game on June 1, 2021, manager Dave Martinez happily announced on Tuesday the right-hander will make his season debut Thursday against the Marlins at loanDepot Park in Miami.

“I told him, ‘For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you,’” Martinez said. “I know this has been a difficult time for you, but you worked your butt off to get back. Just go out there and have fun.”

The 33-year-old will take the mound without a pitch or innings limit, after reaching 83 pitches over six frames in his third Minor League rehab start on Friday with the Triple-A Red Wings. The Nationals will be watching carefully, though, with Strasburg’s injury history that extends beyond last season.

The momentum of Strasburg’s epic 2019 performance, in which he went a historic 5-0 in the playoffs and was named World Series MVP, was cut short in ‘20 by season-ending carpal tunnel surgery. An anchor of the Nats’ starting rotation who threw an NL-best 209 innings in ‘19, he pitched a combined 26 2/3 frames in two years.

“I’m going to take one pitch at a time and see where he’s at,” Martinez said. “It might be a different discussion in a month, who knows. But the good thing is that he feels good and he feels like he’s in a good place. For now, Thursday’s his day and we’re going to go with it. I’m expecting him to go out there and compete.”

Strasburg is returning to a rotation that includes starters Patrick Corbin, Erick Fedde, Josiah Gray and Joan Adon. As for looking at calendars, the last time he pitched for the Nationals, Gray was a prospect in the Dodgers’ organization and Adon was pitching for Washington’s High-A affiliate.

“It’s awesome,” Martinez said. “He’s our guy, right? Everybody knows that. It’ll be a little uplifting for the guys knowing that he’s pitching on Thursday.”