Earlier this week, I detailed the potential issues regarding Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg's latest arm injury and how there were concerns about how Tommy John surgery could potentially be in play.
Well, there's now a collective sigh of resignation in the nation's capital as Strasburg appears to be facing reconstructive surgery on that ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm. The team announced Friday that Strasburg has a "significant" tear in his ligament and will be following up with Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Kerlan-Jobe surgeon who performed a similar procedure on teammate Jordan Zimmermann.
In a most unusual happenstance of timing, Zimmermann returned to the mound Thursday, his first appearance for the Nationals since his surgery. Perhaps that could be viewed as a sign of encouragement for Strasburg, to see a teammate return following this particular surgery and its associated lengthy rehab. Zimmermann underwent his surgery in August 2009 and is making his return almost precisely one year later.
Should the same be expected for Strasburg? Not necessarily. While there is every reason to be optimistic about a full recovery, the time frame may be more extensive. The range for return has been described as 12 to 18 months, but typically averages around 14 months, even without setbacks. And don't forget, Strasburg was on the disabled list with a shoulder issue before the elbow ailment surfaced. It will be critical that every step is taken to ensure a "total body" recovery before returning the Nationals' prize pitcher to the mound.
The future can still be bright for this young ace, but it may be a delayed celebration.
For more on Strasburg's fantasy value, check out Eric Karabell's blog on how to deal with the youngster in keeper leagues.