Rizzo confident Strasburg will return for 2021 at full health

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is disappointed that Stephen Strasburg is out for the season, but feels that taking care of his hand injury now with surgery will allow the right-hander to be back to 100 percent in time for the 2021 season.

“We feel that it’s unfortunate that Stras is not going to be around pitching for us for the remainder of the season, but the positive part of this thing is that we feel that the injury is not going to be anything long term for him,” Rizzo said Sunday during a pregame Zoom video call. “We think that once he gets his surgery, he will be back ready to go when spring training 2021 starts and should be good going forward.

“This season gives us an opportunity to really take the cautious route with him. David Price had it and one time in his career and bounced back very nicely from it. We got Stephen having the surgery Wednesday in Baltimore, so we will monitor him closely and have a good path forward to getting him back on the mound and ready to pitch.”

Rizzo said the carpal tunnel neuritis that Strasburg has experienced in his right hand and fingers is something that was built up over time, not from a one-time action.

“It’s a repetition injury,” Rizzo said. “You can only surmise from throwing breaking pitches and changeups throughout his lifetime and his career and I think that it’s taken it’s toll on him in that regard. Again, we feel that it is an injury that he should make a full recovery from and be ready for the season of 2021.”

Rizzo-Mask-Watches-Game-Sidebar.jpgWith the trade deadline now just eight days away, Rizzo is not feeling the pressure to make a move because he has confidence in the organization’s group of pitchers that now will get a chance to pitch a lot more for the remainder of this season.

“It gives some of our young guys an opportunity to shine and see what they can do and I think it’s a next-man-up type of attitude in that clubhouse,” Rizzo said. “I think it gives us a chance to kind of show off what our depth in this organization is. I think you could see by the players that we’ve brought up in the last couple of weeks or so that they are young, they’re energetic, they are talented players that are going to propel us to a positive future.

“We are still assessing what we have and the deadline. We are comfortable with our rotation right now. That doesn’t mean we are not looking, and if a deal suits us, we will make a deal. But we are always on the look to improve our ball club, but we are excited and happy about the prospects of our rotation not only for this year but for years going forward.”

So that means Austin Voth and Erick Fedde will continue to get starts in the rotation, and the future looks bright with Wil Crowe, Seth Romero and other top prospects arriving in the next year or so to fortify the team’s pitching depth, always considered a Nats strength.

“We like the depth that we have,” Rizzo said. “We get calls about our starting pitching all the time and we feel very, very fortunate that we have that type of depth of young arms that can contribute at the big league level. Very excited about the prospects of these young kids coming up. You look at the Voths and the Feddes, the way they performed last year in a world championship season and helped us the ship afloat and pitch extremely well in a pennant race. You run guys out there like a Wil Crowe and Seth Romero, who have shown their stuff plays in the big leagues. That is very positive news for us moving forward.

“And you look at the depth of young pitchers coming on the farm with (Cade) Cavallis and the (Jackson) Rutledges and the (Joan) Adons and the (Tim) Cates and those type of guys. We feel that this organization is well-stocked for a run in our one-, three- and five-year windows. We feel good about the talent we have amassed, not only at the big league level but the minor league level.”

Left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle is making progress in his return from right knee fatigue that forced him to the injured list. He has been rehabbing at the club’s alternate training site and most recently has mixed in simulated games with bullpen sessions.

“We have confidence that he will be back,” Rizzo said. “He is making strides down there in Fredericksburg. He’s working on mechanics and arm strength and those type of things. He’s working extremely hard and he’s as frustrated as we are about getting himself back. I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to help us this year and he is in the same mindset.”

At the start of play today, the Nats are 10-14 and certainly not where they had hoped to be as the season nears its halfway mark. Rizzo said there is still time to turn it around, but the Nationals must play a better brand of baseball to make an impact this season.

“I have seen flashes of brilliance and mediocrity,” Rizzo said. “We have got to be more consistent. Yesterday emphasized that no matter who you are playing, you can’t give four, five, six, seven extra outs a game. You got to play clean baseball, championship caliber baseball. We went through this last year and cleaned it up rather quickly after a slow start. We have to do the same thing now. I don’t it’s anywhere near too late to make adjustments, but we have to play better.”

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