Strasburg discusses injury, Tommy John surgery

Stephen Strasburg and Mike Rizzo met with the media a short while ago to discuss his elbow injury and his upcoming Tommy John surgery. It was probably the most animated and open we’ve seen Strasburg in a while; the 22-year-old said he aims to be “the best at everything,” and now, that includes Tommy John rehab. Here are the highlights of what they said:

--On his initial reaction: “It was kind of a shock to me, because I didn’t really feel anything. In a way, it’s good that it happened now, instead of when we’re going to the postseason or getting ready for a World Series. It’s a new challenge. I want to be the best at everything, and right now, I’m going to be the best at rehabbing and getting back out here.”

--On what Jordan Zimmermann, who had the surgery last year, told him: “He was telling me that early on, you’re going to be questioning yourself. It’s going to feel really, really good on some days, and the next day it’ll be tight. You’ve just got to remind yourself that it is 100 percent healthy, and just to push through it, stick with the program, not try and do too much, but at the same time, get what you need to get done.”

--On what he can learn from other pitchers who had the surgery: “You look at all the guys in the big leagues who are Cy Young contenders, Hall of Famers who have had this surgery. It’s become such a specialty these days. I’m going to the best (Dr. Lewis Yocum), and I know deep down inside, I’m going to work just as hard, if not harder, than any of these guys who had to go through it before. I hope to be back here soon.”

--On what he felt in Philadelphia when he threw the changeup to Domonic Brown: “It felt more like a flexor strain than anything. It felt like my forearm cramped up. That was about it. After that, as far as the stress test and everything, I didn’t feel any pain. That was the thing that kind of threw it off. I think that was just from being strong and flexible to begin with. Who knows when it happened? Bottom line, it is what it is, and I’ve just got to move forward.”

--On the mental challenge of recovery: “It’s a new challenge. It’s going to be a big learning experience. I feel like I’m going to be able to grow a lot, as an individual and as a baseball player. Looking at the bright side, it’s going to give me six months to really not worrying about throwing and really get strong - my lower half, my core, my shoulder - everything strong, so when it is time for me to step on the rubber, it’s going to be a totally new ballgame for me and I’m going to be ready to tackle a full season.”

--On the similarity between what he felt on Saturday and what he felt in college: “You see, that’s the weird thing. What happened the other night was something I’ve felt before, and nothing was torn then. I don’t know what the doctors think, but I think it might have been something that happened over time, and it never really popped up until we decided to go on the MRI machine for the flexor muscle. It happens. It happens to a lot of pitchers out there. It’s a pretty common thing. You’ve just got to roll with it and get better.”

--Strasburg said he was “pretty comfortable with the results of the MRI.” He will see Yocum in Los Angeles tomorrow, and didn’t sound like he was all that concerned about getting a second opinion before proceeding with surgery. “He’s going to check me out, and we’re going to do what needs to be done after that.” Yocum will do the surgery.

--Strasburg, on whether he’s looking for an explanation about what happened: “You know, if I keep looking for an explanation, it’s just going to eat at me. I’ve got to let it go. I’ve just got to move on, and that’s what I’m doing. Everything happens for a reason, and this is obviously a test for me. I’ve never had any shoulder or elbow surgery in my entire life, so it’s going to be a new experience. I’m just going to embrace it. I’m going to find the good in everything.”

--The next question, about a correlation between his changeup and the injury, is where Strasburg showed a little of the surliness we’ve seen from time to time: “You can dig into that all you want. You’re looking at two changeups out of the hundreds of thousands of changeups that I’ve thrown, whether it’s out in the outfield, out in the bullpen, during a game. It could have been any pitch.” And in response to the follow up, to confirm it only happened once: “Yeah. Not the same injury, though, obviously. Or else I wouldn’t be pitching two years after that.”

--Looking back on his rookie season, Strasburg said, “It’s definitely a whirlwind. It kind of sucks to have it end like this. But I got a lot of great experience when I was up here. The weird thing about it is, that last game, that was when everything started to click. That’s when I had that feeling. I mean, that was a packed house, those were some rowdy fans, and I didn’t feel like they were there. I was just so locked in. Everything was working. And sure enough, something happens. But that’s something to build on. Tomorrow, I’m just going to write down on a piece of paper everything that I’m thinking write now, look at it a year from now and keep going from there.”

--On how long it took for him to get over the initial shock: “It didn’t take a matter of minutes. It took definitely a few hours. I’ve got great support all around me, and they reminded me of everything I should be thankful for. They put everything in perspective for me, and the big that, bottom line, this is a game. I’m very blessed to play this game for a living. This is a minor setback, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a blip on the radar screen.” He said his initial reaction was a mix of anger and confusion.

--Strasburg said when he got the MRI results, he came to the field thinking the Nationals were going to let him play catch. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong. It just happened. I can’t really explain it. I’m not going to try to explain it anymore.”

--Strasburg said the piece of paper “is so I don’t forget all the things I’m thinking about right now. Your mind might get a little jumbled through this experience. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve just got to remember everything I want to focus on, so the next time I go out there and pitch, I can keep going like I was this year.” Strasburg wasn’t going to divulge what he’d write down, though. “I’ll keep that to myself,” he said. “I might show that to you guys in a year from now.”

--And finally, on whether getting back to pitch at the end of the 2011 season is important to him: “We’re just going to have to wait and see. I’m just going to work as hard as possibly can. If I get back a year from now, that’d be great. If it’s a little bit after that, it is what is. We’re going to do what’s right. We’re not going to try to come back early to where there’s problems and things are going to happen again. I’m going to come back and be fully healthy and ready to go.”