Stephen Strasburg is back on the disabled list as of Monday afternoon, his second stint there this season. After a string of three poor starts in a row, the Nationals announced Strasburg was dealing with “right elbow soreness” — always a scary reason for a disabled list stint given the trouble elbows can cause — making it the fourth time in two seasons the right-hander has hit the DL.
This year’s trouble is colored somewhat differently by the fact that the Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension in May. They committed $175 million to the 28-year-old all-star, who has two chances to opt out of the deal. As a result, each new injury raises questions about what exactly the Nationals got in their investment. Will he be able to stay healthy? Recently, the answer has been “not really,” though in fairness none of his last three disabled list stints came with much long-term concern. Below, a look at his entire injury history, which began in his rookie year with the Nationals, in late 2010.
July 2010: Right shoulder inflammation
One month into his rookie season, a month after he made the most prolific strikeout debut in Nationals history, right shoulder inflammation pushed the 21-year-old to the disabled list for the first time. The move was largely made out of an abundance of caution, and came with the expectation that Strasburg would return before the end of the season. He did, but not for long.
August 2010: Torn UCL
In Strasburg’s third outing after returning from shoulder trouble, he hit he disabled list again. Within a week, the Nationals announced that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament and would need Tommy John surgery. Strasburg returned to make five starts in 2011, then started 28 games during the 2012 season in which he largely stayed healthy — but ended when the Nationals shut him down before the playoffs to keep him that way.
June 2013: Lat strain
Strasburg stayed healthy into the 2013 season, when a mild lat strain sent him the disabled list for a brief stint in June. But Strasburg returned from that issue without much incident, pitched through the rest of the 2013 season, then through a healthy 2014 season that amounted to his best so far.
May 2015: Upper Back Issue
After he left an early May start with soreness in his back, Strasburg landed on the disabled list with what was officially called “neck tightness” in late May. The actual trouble was that the Nationals did not know exactly what the trouble was at all. After injuring his ankle in spring training, Strasburg felt like he might have overcompensated in his mechanics to pitch through the injury. The result was upper back discomfort that limited him to no more than five innings of work in five straight short outings. The Nationals placed him on the disabled list to figure out what was keeping him from pitching deep into games.
July 2015: Oblique strain
Pitching well on a promising July 4 afternoon, Strasburg suddenly came out of what had been one of his best outings of the season. The reason, the Nationals announced later, was an oblique strain unrelated to his issues earlier in the season. An MRI revealed a strain too severe to pitch through, so Strasburg remained on the disabled list until August 8, when he returned for a dominant two months that carried over into 2016. The upper back injury cost him just more than a month. So did the oblique strain. Strasburg did have a procedure to remove a benign growth from his upper back this offseason, but it was not expected to — and did not seem to — affect him at all by the time spring training rolled around.
June 2016: Upper back strain
A weight room mishap put Strasburg back on the disabled list for two weeks in June. Officially called an “upper back strain,” the injury was not a long-term concern at the time. Memorably, it caused Strasburg to be scratched from a high-profile nationally televised showdown with Clayton Kershaw at the last minute, to which Bryce Harper’s reaction was “sucks for ESPN.” But the trouble did not linger, and Strasburg threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit in his first outing back, pulled from a no-hitter in the seventh because his pitch count had climbed.
August 2016: Right elbow soreness
Strasburg’s fourth disabled list stint in two years came Monday, though it officially began Thursday, with “right elbow soreness.” Strasburg had three bad outings in a row, most recently the worst outing of his career over 1 2/3 innings Wednesday in Colorado. Strasburg played catch for two days after the injury, and his manager and pitching coach both indicated no health concerns in the days immediately following that outing. But Strasburg is now back on the disabled list anyway, and the Nationals are hoping this stint — like the three before it — is not a long-term problem, but a short-term concern.