He hasn’t given much thought to the approaching one-year anniversary of his major league debut. He passes the long hours between bullpen sessions watching movies, playing golf and fishing. His focus is on his rehabilitation from elbow surgery, and on that front there is something resembling news: Stephen Strasburg is up to three bullpen sessions per week now, with 30 to 40 pitches per session. All fastballs, no breaking balls yet.
But there remains no definitive timetable on his return from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, at least not that he has been told.
“I’m not really sure what’s going to be in store for me next month, or the month after that,” Strasburg said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. “…. It’s been going very smoothly so far. I’ve been on schedule, and that’s all I can focus on right now. The Nationals are going to have to make decision at some point on when they want to send me up, and that’s going to be their call.”
Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Strasburg’s remarkable debut at Nationals Park, a seven-inning, 14-strikeout tour de force against the Pittsburgh Pirates that stands arguably as the most memorable moment in the franchise’s history in D.C.
But he is no sentimentalist.
“I haven’t thought about it much, to be honest,” he said. “It was an amazing experience but it’s kind of foggy now. I’m really focused on living in the now. I have a lot of work ahead of me. My goal to get back to 100 percent and get back [to Washington] and fill up the stadium like I did on that day.”
Strasburg, who was expected to be out 12-18 months after undergoing surgery last September, is now some nine months into his rehab. He began throwing off a mound two weeks ago, with the duration and degree of exertion of each workout expected to increase gradually in the coming weeks.
The doctors and trainers overseeing his throwing program “don’t want me to go out there and throw it hard,” Strasburg said. “They want me to throw it nice and easy and maintain proper mechanics. I’m trying to work on getting the timing back and getting the mechanics down…. The idea is to put graded stress on the new ligament.”
Strasburg acknowledged the mental aspect of the rehab is more difficult than the physical side, saying he must try hard to “stay sane in Florida” while the baseball season goes on without him.
“One day at a time,” he said. “One week at a time.”
At one point, a reporter asked Strasburg if, given his own experiences as a minor league phenom in 2010, he would have any advice for Bryce Harper, who created a media storm Monday night by seemingly showboating during a home-run trot. A Nationals media relations official moderating the conference call quickly interjected to say Strasburg “will take a pass on that question.”