The nerve issue in Stephen Strasburg‘s wrist that ended his 2020 season after five innings would get aggravated every time he threw a baseball, he said Sunday, and “basically would go from numbness in my thumb to numbness in my whole hand.”
Speaking to reporters for the first time since before he was shut down in August, the Washington Nationals ace said the problem went away immediately after the 15-minute carpal tunnel surgery.
The 2019 World Series MVP began preparing for this season much earlier than usual, doing a light catch on Nov. 1 instead of mid-December, and throwing bullpens early in January instead of late in the month.
“Endurance-wise, stamina-wise, I feel like I’m a lot further along than I have [been] in years past,” the right-handed starter explained. “I wanted to give myself some extra time to work through some mechanical things and be ready to go on day one.”
That he was: The 32-year-old was throwing off a mound alongside teammates during Friday’s workout.
“He’s one of our workhorses. And not to see him out there was tough. But for me, if he was ever going to get hurt and ever fix an issue, last year would’ve been the time,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I’m glad he got it fixed, and I’m glad he feels great.”
Strasburg said the stop-start nature of last year’s pandemic-affected schedule — spring training was stopped in March, then teams resumed preparations in July — was tough on his arm.
There was a period of uncertainty about when the so-called “summer camp” would start, so Strasburg would throw into a net to try to stay ready.
It was when things picked up again that the numbness first surfaced.
“If I knew it was going to start when it did, I definitely would have just not picked up a baseball for some time,” he said. “It ended up hurting me more than helped me.”
Martinez said SS Trea Turner “possibly” could shift from leadoff to the No. 2 or 3 spot in the lineup. “We’re running a lot of different lineups, different numbers, talking to a bunch of our analytical people. Honestly, I would like to get [CF Victor] Robles up at the top of the lineup, even if it’s just against left-handed pitching.”
The Nationals would love to avoid the sort of poor start they managed to overcome in 2019 (19-31), so how do they do that? Martinez said he might ask position players to play seven, eight or nine innings of the last 10 days of exhibition games. “I want these guys to be May 1 ready come April 1,” he said.