Strasburg will not need surgery on knee

The Nats' Stephen Strasburg landed awkwardly and crumpled to the ground when shagging flyballs Thursday.
The Nats' Stephen Strasburg landed awkwardly and crumpled to the ground when shagging flyballs Thursday. (By Suzanne Starr For The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Washington Nationals were never so happy to hear the words "patellar subluxation" as they were Friday night, when they received word of that diagnosis -- essentially a dislocated kneecap -- in the left knee of prized phenom Stephen Strasburg, who was injured Thursday prior to an Arizona Fall League game. The news means the 21-year-old right-hander will avoid surgery and should have no trouble being ready for spring training in February.

"It was the best result that we could have hoped for," General Manager Mike Rizzo said Friday evening from his office at Nationals Park. "It's something where he just has to rest and follow a physical therapy regimen to strengthen all the ligaments around his knee. We think we dodged a bullet. From what you hear, and from what [witnesses] saw on the field, you always think of the worst and hope for the best."

Strasburg, who signed a record $15.1 million contract after the Nationals took him No. 1 overall in the June draft, was examined Friday by Lewis Yocum, a noted orthopedist based in Los Angeles, after an MRI exam taken immediately after the injury showed inflammation in the area.

According to Rizzo, the injury occurred while Strasburg and a teammate were playing long toss in the outfield during batting practice before the Phoenix Desert Dogs' regular season finale. Strasburg apparently went to field a groundball that had been hit near him when his cleats caught in the outfield grass. Witnesses said Strasburg immediately crumpled to the ground and reported hearing a "pop" in his knee -- which would be consistent with a diagnosis of patellar subluxation.

Despite the relatively best-case diagnosis, Strasburg remains scratched from his previously scheduled start in Saturday's AFL championship game, which is to be televised at 2 p.m. on the MLB Network.

Strasburg finished the AFL season with a 4-1 record and 4.28 ERA, having previously missed a scheduled start in the league's all-star game after waking up with a stiff neck, which was later diagnosed as a strained muscle.

"It's disappointing for [Strasburg] for sure to miss [Saturday's] start," said Rizzo, who spoke to Strasburg earlier Friday. "I know that for a fact. He's an ultra-competitor and he really wanted to win for his teammates. He felt that with him on the mound, it gives his team the best chance to win the championship game.

"So he's extremely disappointed he doesn't get to finish out the season with his teammates and pitch in the championship game."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company