PITTSBURGH -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg is not a doctor, but he was asked why so many pitchers were having Tommy John surgery lately. Strasburg didn't mention any particular player, but he is concerned about how future pitchers are being used at a young age, especially during travel ball season, which is played year round.
"Even during the offseason, I go watch my buddy's travel team and the team they are facing, they bring this kid in," Strasburg said. "It's December and he throws 120 pitches in four innings. [There is this other kid] who threw 190 pitches in 14 innings in high school. That whole mindset of travel ball and high school, it's becoming such a year-round sport. Pitchers at 9 years old are exclusively pitchers, not playing any other positions. For me, at that age, I played other positions, too.
"I think that whole change of it has become more of a job at a younger age and kids not understanding or having the resources of learning how to take care of their bodies. You see these kids, they feel great and never get sore, so they keep throwing. It's like taking money out of the bank and not putting anything back in."
Strasburg had Tommy John surgery in 2010, but it had nothing to do with him pitching year round. He sprained his medial collateral ligament on the second to last day of the 2009 Arizona Fall League season and it affected his ability to prepare for the 2010 season. Strasburg couldn't run or lift weights with his lower body. In fact, he couldn't do anything until four weeks before Spring Training.
It seems unbelievable because he was dominant in the Major and Minor Leagues in '10. Who can forget his Major League debut against the Pirates on June 8, 2010? He allowed two runs in seven innings and struck out 14 batters. His last game was Aug. 21 against the Phillies that year.
"I didn't have my legs under me when I got called up," Strasburg said. "You have so much more adrenaline going on. You are not used to it. You are reaching back on every pitch, trying to make every pitch better. You don't need to go and try to throw 100 [mph] every time. You are out there trying to do it, especially with the young guys. They might be able to. Locating the fastball a little bit better, try to change speeds a little bit more -- just understanding the situation will definitely help you. Having veterans in the clubhouse, I've been able to learn those things. In the course of the season, it adds up."
Strasburg also said he didn't take care of his arm during off-days while he was in the Minors.
"I was throwing every single day until I got called up. The plan was to condition my arm and get it in shape. As you know, during the course of the season, guys use the off-day to their advantage. It's great not to pick up a baseball and recharge your batteries."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.