For Nats fans, though, none of that will be as convincing as the thoughts of Dr. James Andrews. Bear in mind, the famed orthopaedic surgeon did not perform Stephen Strasburg’s surgery, nor has he advised the team during his recovery. But Andrews was on ESPN Radio this week, and he backed the Nats’ decision.
“He’s such a young pitcher, such a tremendous talent, and I think prevention and being careful with these high-level pitchers is certainly admirable,” Andrews said. “So I would certainly take up for the decision. And I don’t know first-hand — there’s probably a lot of intangibles that helped them make that decision. But I don’t think you can criticize that one bit, to be honest with you.
“If you look at the injury rates on re-dos for Tommy Johns, the highest injury rates they have is during the second year, when they’re coming back and really back up at top form and throwing and getting fatigued,” he continued. “So I think that’s a bold step, but it’s probably protective for him and for his long-term career, which is always more important than anything else, particularly in a high-level pitcher like that, and a young pitcher.”
Andrews was then asked about the advice he gives to his own patients in their first year back from Tommy John surgery.
“Every pitcher’s a little different,” Andrews said. “But everything we do when you have them return — all the way from the beginning of the throwing program at four months after surgery — is a step-by-step progression. So their workload has to be individualized, certainly through their first year back and generally through their second year back.
“And it depends on fatigue and how the medical staff and the pitching coach that are with him on a day-to-day basis determine their fatigue factors,” Andrews said. “And...if there’s a question — should we push him or should we slow him down — then particularly up through the second year, the answer to the question is be on the conservative side and make the conservative decision, not the push decision to take him another step maybe beyond where they should go. That’s what we’ve learned, perhaps the hard way, when we try to bring these players back. But it’s all individualized.”
And finally, Andrews was asked whether the Nats could have safely shut Strasburg down for some indeterminate period of time during the season, to save him for the pennant race and the playoffs.
“The problem with shutting him down and getting him out of his cycle and then all of a sudden putting him back in, means you’ve got to recycle him,” Andrews said. “In other words, you can’t take him at a high level, shut him down for a month and then get back immediately to a high level. That could be dangerous, also.
“But that’s a good question,” Andrews continued. “The problem with that is starting him back up. You all know that the major injuries occur any time when you start somebody back up early in the season when they’ve been off. So it’s a little bit unknown to be able to do that and do that safely. I don’t know how that would actually benefit him. It could benefit him, it could benefit the team, but also it may be dangerous to start him back up with appropriate rest. So I’m sorry to say, but it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t deal.”
Perhaps this all would be of interest to many of the team’s national critics. Or maybe not.
Rick Sutcliffe has a plan for Strasburg
Rudy Giuliani opposes the shutdown
Mitch Williams calls the strategy “absolutely absurd”
Dennis Eckersley says the Nats have to pitch Strasburg
Stephen A. Smith says it’s disgraceful
Kevin Millar asks the Nats to look Strasburg in the eyes
Jake Peavy says it blows his mind
Scott Boras on possible legal ramifications
Rob Dibble blasts Strasburg and Rizzo
Andrea Mitchell discusses Strasburg on MSNBC