The Nationals' road to a repeat just got much more difficult with the announcement that World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg will undergo surgery to repair carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand sometime early next week, manager Davey Martinez confirmed.
The Nats have placed Strasburg on the 60-day injured list, effectively ending his 2020 season.
Strasburg, 32, hopes to return 100 percent for the 2021 spring training. Right-hander Wil Crowe is promoted to take Strasburg's place on the roster and will make his major league debut in the second game of today's doubleheader against the Marlins.
"Hopefully, surgery goes well," Martinez said during today's pregame Zoom video call. "The biggest thing is that the surgery relieves anything he has and he is able to rehab and, for me, come back strong next spring training. That long-term goal is what we are hoping for.
"He still has to ramp up, if a miracle happens, and I don't see that the case. We want to make sure he's 100 percent when he comes back. We don't want nothing else to break down on him, so we are going to take this very slowly and carefully.
Former Red Sox starter and current Dodger hurler David Price came down with a "mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome" in May 2018 but managed to complete the season, starting 30 games. Unrelated, Price opted out of this season due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Strasburg struggled out of the blocks this season, scratched from him his first scheduled game July 25 and then starting only two of the Nats' first 22 games. He went 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA and pitched only five innings with two strikeouts.
Martinez did not have the exact date for Strasburg's surgery but estimated it would be early next week, possibly on Aug. 26. Further, players on the long-term injured list are required to report to the alternate training site (Fredericksburg) when they begin to undergo rehab.
Martinez said the right-hander understood how important it is that he get the surgery now, and that he has an ample amount of time to get ready for 2021.
"It was good. He was very receptive," Martinez said. "He wants to get this right. Disappointed that he couldn't finish out the season, but I told him, 'Let's just get this fixed.' He was hoping he could fight through this, but for me it doesn't make any sense that he goes out there and try to do what he did his last outing. Let's just get it fixed. He's a huge part of our future. We want to get him healthy."
Carpal tunnel neuritis is a pretty rare injury in major league pitchers, at least for well known hurlers like Price. Price's ailment was referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome.
So how did Strasburg get the nerve impingement?
"He was complaining about his wrist, and then next thing you know his thumb started going numb on him," Martinez said. "He couldn't feel the baseball. That's how it all started. I don't know for sure, but they don't know how this could have happened."
In his last start in Baltimore, on Aug. 14, Strasburg allowed a first inning solo homer by Anthony Santander and was replaced after throwing only 16 pitches. By scheduling the surgery in August, the Nats hope to give Strasburg the time he needs to get back to full strength for spring training in 2021. But Martinez has another worry. He doesn't want Strasburg to compensate in his mechanics when he does get back on the mound.
"My only concern is that he does anything to change his mechanics," Martinez said. "That's why we want to take this very slow. We want the wrist and the thumb to heal the nerve after the surgery, and then slowly but surely bring him back so that nothing else goes wrong."
"We don't want him to change mechanics. We want to get him back there before he really starts amping up and starts throwing again. With that being said, the way the surgery goes these days, the doctor said he should be totally 100 percent when this heals and ready to pitch again. So, we are very hopeful that that is the case."