Three key Nationals players underwent minor surgeries this week to repair injuries that had bugged them during the season. The Nationals announced on Saturday morning that starter Stephen Strasburg, who dealt with forearm tightness in September, underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow on Friday. Outfielder Bryce Harper, who played on a balky left knee after a May 13 collision with an outfield wall, had surgery on Wednesday to debride and repair the bursa sac. And first baseman Adam LaRoche underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove loose bodies from his left elbow.
All three are expected to be ready for spring training and recovery period for each is listed as four to six weeks. The Nationals announced that each surgery was “successful.”
Strasburg, who had elbow ligament replacement surgery on his right arm in 2010, missed two starts in September with tightness in his right forearm, which can be a symptom of elbow issues. At the time, the Nationals determined Strasburg’s problem was strictly muscular and not related to any ligaments or tendons in his arm. He returned to the mound in late September and made his two final starts of the season, finishing the season with a 8-9 record and 3.00 ERA.
Given the care with which the Nationals have handled Strasburg since his Tommy John surgery, any pain or injury to his right arm raises alarms. Strasburg’s cleanup procedure was performed by in Los Angeles by Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers’ team phsyician and a well-known orthopedic surgeon. Strasburg is slated to resume his offseason throwing program in four to six weeks.
Harper’s surgery is mildly surprising. He said in September that he would not need a procedure, just rest, though his manager at the time, Davey Johnson, said in late August that Harper might require minor offseason surgery. Harper spent all of June on the disabled list with left knee bursitis, the biggest and longest-lasting injury stemming from his collision with the right field wall in Los Angeles on May 13. He received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and cortisone injection into the bursa sac in June, and played through lingering swelling and discomfort for the rest of the season while receiving constant treatment on the knee. He hit .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs but played in only 118 games.
Harper’s surgery was performed in Vail, Colo. by Richard Steadman, a well-known knee specialist who also operated on Wilson Ramos’s right knee in 2012. Harper is expected to resume his offseason workouts in four to six weeks.
“Since everybody is finding out, everything went well on Wednesday!” Harper wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “Thanks for all the support and prayers! Be back strong as ever!”
LaRoche’s injury is a new revelation. The first baseman endured the worst season of his career, hitting .237/.332/.403, his lowest totals outside of his injury-shortened 2011 season, along with 20 home runs, 62 RBI and 131 strikeouts. The traditionally streaky left-handed hitter battled weight-loss issues due to his ADD medicine, which partly contributed to his lack of strength and lower power production. He missed the last two games of the season with a left biceps strain. Perhaps the discomfort in his left elbow also played a factor, too.
LaRoche’s surgery was performed by Nationals team physician Wiemi Douoguih at the Washington Hospital Center. LaRoche is slated to resume his offseason workouts in four to six weeks.
All three surgeries are generally considered routine, but the recovery time for each player can vary and affect each differently. Although he was ready for opening day, it took Ryan Zimmerman nearly 10 months to fully recover and regain strength after cleanup surgery on his right shoulder in October 2012. Drew Storen had a bone chip removed from his throwing elbow in April 2012, he didn’t return to the majors until mid-July of that year and it took another month before he began to regain form.