Stephen Strasburg headed to disabled list

The Washington Post's John Feinstein talks about the latest injury to Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and whether this will be a trend throughout his career.
By Dave Sheinin and Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 24, 2010; 12:17 AM

The mystery of what is going on inside Stephen Strasburg's prized right arm, a question that has left the phenom's season in limbo and the Washington Nationals' brain trust in a state of angst, will endure for at least another 72 hours. Strasburg's absence from a major league mound, meantime, will last at least another two weeks.

Thirteen days after coming off the disabled list following a bout of shoulder stiffness, Strasburg, 22, went right back on it Monday - this time with a forearm/elbow injury suffered Saturday night in Philadelphia. An MRI exam taken Sunday, while ultimately inconclusive, gave the team enough cause for concern to shut him down, at least temporarily, and order a more detailed exam.

Sunday's MRI exam, according to General Manager Mike Rizzo, showed "something on there that led us to set up another arthrogram MRI, with injected dye, so we can get a full view of what's going on in there."

Rizzo did not elaborate on what the original MRI exam showed. Manager Jim Riggleman described it as "less encouraging" than the initial diagnosis given in Philadelphia by a Phillies team physician, who, according to Riggleman, told the Nationals: "He's fine. He'll be pitching in five days."

The arthrogram MRI had not been scheduled as of early Monday evening, but the team hoped to line it up for Thursday. Team orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih, who administered the original MRI exam, will also administer the enhanced one, and Rizzo said there are no plans for Strasburg to be seen by any other doctors.

"For us to do it in 72 hours, it gives us a chance for . . . the swelling to go down so we can get a real good picture of it," Rizzo said.

According to a team source, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who has been finishing a rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues following elbow ligament-replacement surgery 12 months ago, will be called up to assume Strasburg's spot in the rotation, beginning Thursday night at Nationals Park against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rizzo used "elbow" and "forearm" interchangeably when discussing Strasburg's injury, which for now the team is calling a strain of the "flexor mass," which includes a muscle and a tendon that connects to the elbow.

Asked if Strasburg could be shut down for the season, given the fact only about four weeks would remain when he is eligible to return from the disabled list, Riggleman said, "It's just too early to tell. We've got at least 15 days before we would even have to make that decision."

Strasburg, whom the Nationals signed to a record-breaking $15.1 million contract after making him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, was at Nationals Park on Monday, but remained out of sight of reporters and was not made available to address the media. Asked to describe Strasburg's mind-set, Rizzo said, "To say he's a little anxious, a little emotional, would be fair to say."

Strasburg was in the midst of one of his finest outings of the season Saturday night in Philadelphia, when he suddenly grimaced in pain and began shaking his right arm following a 1-1 change-up to Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown, on Strasburg's 56th pitch of the night. Although he lobbied to remain in the game, Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty immediately yanked him.

Although forearm injuries frequently portend elbow problems, Strasburg has experienced similar episodes - a sharp pain or tightness that passes quickly - while pitching at San Diego State. The episodes always occurred on a change-up, and Strasburg was always able to continue pitching.

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