Stephen Strasburg Not Expected To Return This Season

Stephen Strasburg hasn’t pitched in over a month, and the Nationals transferred him to the 60-day injured list last week. That officially ruled him out until mid-August, and Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that he’s likely to miss the remainder of the 2022 season dealing with a nerve issue.

It’s not a huge surprise, as the Nats have previously suggested they feared he’s suffered a recurrence of the thoracic outlet syndrome that cut his 2021 campaign short. That necessitated surgery last July, although Heyman writes that Strasburg fortunately will not need to undergo another procedure. Nevertheless, it seems even a non-surgical rehab won’t afford the veteran righty an opportunity to make it back to the mound this year.

It’s the third consecutive lost season for Strasburg, who has been limited to eight appearances since the 2019 campaign wrapped up. He missed most of the abbreviated 2020 season due to carpal tunnel syndrome. After pitching just twice that year, he made five starts before being shut down by TOS last season. Strasburg spent about 11 months working his way back to the big leagues, returning for a 4 2/3-inning against the Marlins on June 9. While he came out of that start feeling fine, he suffered renewed rib discomfort during a bullpen session a few days later.

Injuries to Strasburg are among the reasons the past three seasons have played out disastrously for the Nationals. The three-time All-Star was in peak form in 2019, tossing 209 innings of 3.32 ERA ball during the regular season. He continued to shine during the postseason, helping the Nats to a championship and winning World Series MVP honors. Washington kept him around on a seven-year, $245MM free agent contract the ensuing winter.

While it was easy to understand the Nationals’ desire to keep Strasburg around coming off such an excellent season, that signing looks like an unfortunate major misstep in retrospect. Not only have the injuries generally kept him off the mound, he’s looked nothing like his old self during his limited action. Strasburg averaged north of 94 MPH on his fastball in 2019, but he’s worked in the 90-92 MPH range over the past three years. Coupled with the Max Scherzer trade and Patrick Corbin’s massive performance downturn, the excellent top-end starting pitching that anchored the Nats perennial contenders of the last decade has abandoned them. Washington’s rotation has an MLB-worst 5.74 ERA through the season’s unofficial first half.

Strasburg, 34 on Wednesday, remains under contract for another four years. He’s due $35MM annually through 2026, although a good portion of that salary is deferred with interest.

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