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Stephen Strasburg's surgeon on Nationals shutdown: 'I wasn't asked'

September 13, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg in the dugout during a game against the Marlins on Saturday.
Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg in the dugout during a… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

The doctor who performed elbow surgery on Stephen Strasburg said he did not tell the Washington Nationals to shut down their ace pitcher.

“I wasn’t asked,” Dr. Lewis Yocum told the Los Angeles Times.

Yocum said he had not talked with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo since last year and had not talked with Strasburg since spring training.

The Nationals pulled the plug on Strasburg’s season last week, ruling out the 24-year-old star from pitching in what almost certainly will be the first postseason appearance by a Washington baseball team since 1933.

Yocum, the Angels’ medical director and one of baseball’s most renowned orthopedic experts, performed Tommy John surgery on Strasburg in September 2010. The pitcher returned last September, for 24 innings.

The Nationals had indicated all year that Strasburg would be limited to about 160 innings; they shut him down after 159 1/3 innings.

Yocum said that, had he been asked, he would not have been able to provide conclusive information about whether Strasburg’s long-term health would be best served by shutting him down.

“There’s no statistic as far as studies,” Yocum said.

Yocum noted that Rizzo set his own standard with Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann.

Yocum performed Tommy John surgery on Zimmermann in August 2009; he returned to pitch 31 innings at the end of the 2010 season. Rizzo limited Zimmermann to 161 1/3 innings last season.

Zimmermann, 26, has not missed a turn this season. His 3.01 earned-run average ranks seventh in the National League.

Yocum said that process — and not any medical directive — essentially determined how Rizzo would proceed with Strasburg.

“It’s based on Mike’s experience,” Yocum said. “Mike is extremely confident. His track record speaks for itself. Zimmermann did extremely well.”

Yocum said the results with Zimmermann and Strasburg might well influence how other teams handle the progress of young pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery, in which a damaged ligament in the forearm is replaced.

“If there was a guarantee, everybody would be doing it right now,” Yocum said. “You just don’t know. This may be the beginning of a trend.”

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