Strasburg throwing lightly, an important step in his recovery

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; D02

As he prepares to join his Nationals teammates this weekend at spring training, Stephen Strasburg has reached a significant milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. For the first time since he felt a pop in his right elbow on Aug. 21, when he threw a 1-1 change-up to Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown, Strasburg is throwing again.

"He told me that he tossed a ball, that he was really excited," Nats pitching coach Steve McCatty said today in a phone interview. "I just kind of laughed. He was so excited to be able to toss a ball. I'm not sure what the process is, because it can vary. But I know he tossed a ball. It was a very short distance. He was very happy."

Strasburg made the short tosses in Southern California, where he is rehabbing from ligament-replacement surgery, which he underwent Sept. 3. Making his first light throws now, a week before spring training, means Strasburg remains on schedule on his 12- to 18-month road back to the majors.

Throwing, at last, is a small, significant part of a process that will last all season for Strasburg. In spring, while the rest of the Nationals' pitching staff rifles the ball during exhibition games and bullpen sessions, Strasburg will play soft catch. Jordan Zimmermann undertook the same challenge last year, and McCatty often had to force him to back down, to not throw so hard.

"I'm sure I'll have to do the same thing with" Strasburg, McCatty said.

While recovery time varies from pitcher to pitcher, Zimmermann's experience sheds some light on when Strasburg may make his next major league appearance. The Nationals treated Zimmermann with extreme caution, and he made his first post-surgery appearance in the majors Aug. 26 last year, about 121/2 months following his August 2009 surgery. Since Strasburg underwent his surgery Sept. 3, he could feasibly return in the middle of September, at the very end of this season.

The road back will be filled with small, important signposts, like throwing again for the first time. Tossing a ball was once rote for Strasburg, like driving or brushing your teeth. Now, it represented a meaningful moment for him. "It sure is," McCatty said.

Radio deal close

The Nationals are expected to sign a deal making local sports talker 106.7 The Fan their flagship station in coming days, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Under the proposed deal, former flagship station WFED 1500 AM would remain a Nats radio affiliate and would broadcast all the team's games, which would help maintain coverage to the north. WJFK, meantime, would add the strong penetration of an FM signal while also helping listeners in D.C.'s western suburbs. 106.7 The Fan would broadcast all the team's night and weekend games, plus holiday matinees. Non-holiday weekday day games would be broadcast on its sister station, WHFS 1580 AM.

- Dan Steinberg

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