Surgery namesake John against Strasburg plan

Surgery namesake John against Strasburg plan

Surgery namesake John against Strasburg plan
WASHINGTON -- Former Major League pitcher Tommy John is against Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg being shut down after his Sept. 12 start against the Mets.

After having elbow reconstruction in late 2010 and coming back late last year, Strasburg is on an innings limit in 2012. He is expected to pitch between 160 to 180 innings this year.

The plan to shut down Strasburg has been in place since last year. The team had a similar plan for Jordan Zimmermann last year, and he's developed into one of the club's best pitchers.

But John sees it differently. He was the first player in Major League history to have elbow reconstructive surgery. As a member of the Dodgers, John had the procedure done in September 1974 by Dr. Frank Jobe. When John returned to Major League action in 1976, he never missed a start. He then followed that up with three 20-win seasons and appeared in a combined three World Series with the Dodgers and Yankees after surgery.

"I think it's wrong, but that is my opinion," John said via telephone. "They could shut [Strasburg] down all year for all I care. Maybe [Nationals general manager] Mike Rizzo should go to the Atlanta Braves school of shutting pitchers down, because they have the guy [Kris] Medlen. He is going to be able to pitch because they have the foresight to pitch him out of the bullpen during the first couple of months of the season. Now they have him for the rest of the year. They worked their plan better than Rizzo and [agent] Scott Boras worked their plan."

Medlen, unlike Strasburg, has been used in a relief role in both the Major and Minor Leagues throughout his career.

"The Tommy John surgery is a secondary factor in this," Braves manager Frank Wren said about Medlen. "The primary factor was that the most innings he had ever thrown in a year in his career was 120-something. Our normal progression with any of our pitchers is about 150-160 innings. So we wanted to limit that. All of our staff meetings in Spring Training were predicated on those numbers and how we best utilize him."

John said there is no guarantee that Strasburg is going to be healthy after he is shut down. John gave the example of Yankees right-hander Joba Chamberlain, who was limited his rookie year and he ended up having Tommy John surgery in 2011.

"Dr. Jobe told me the longer you pitch -- post-surgery -- without setbacks or any problems, the farther you are from having arm problems again."

Dr. James Andrews, who did not perform Strasburg's surgery, agreed with the Nats' decision when he appeared on ESPN Radio two weeks ago.

"He's such a young pitcher, such a tremendous talent, and I think prevention and being careful with these high-level pitchers is certainly admirable," Andrews said. "So I would certainly take up for the decision. And I don't know first-hand -- there's probably a lot of intangibles that helped them make that decision. But I don't think you can criticize that one bit, to be honest with you.

"If you look at the injury rates on re-dos for Tommy Johns, the highest injury rates they have is during the second year, when they're coming back and really back up at top form and throwing and getting fatigued," Andrews continued. "So I think that's a bold step, but it's probably protective for him and for his long-term career, which is always more important than anything else, particularly in a high-level pitcher like that, and a young pitcher."

If John was in Strasburg's shoes, how would he feel about missing the postseason?

"I would be [upset]. As well as the other 24 guys. It's just like saying, 'Thanks for working guys, but we are going to take Strasburg and shut him down.' ... I understand. He is a valuable asset ... but it doesn't mean you are going to make his career longer."