Monday, August 23, 2010, 6:03 p.m., Updated at 7:29 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
Stephen Strasburg will be placed on the 15-day disabled list after an MRI revealed a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm, but the Washington Nationals won't determine whether the rookie will return to pitch this season until a second, enhanced MRI is performed in the next few days.
Strasburg, who was pulled from Saturday night's game in Philadelphia after wincing upon throwing a fifth-inning changeup, underwent his first MRI Sunday. That test confirmed the initial diagnosis of a flexor tendon strain. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, though, said an arthrogram (an enhanced MRI in which a dye is injected in the player's arm) is needed for doctors to better determine the extent of the injury.
"It's because of what we couldn't see, mostly," Rizzo said. "The swelling inside the tendon, it makes it difficult on a dry MRI to see the real intricacies of the tendons and the ligaments."
Because he's headed for the DL, Strasburg will miss at least two starts, though Rizzo wouldn't rule out the possibility of the 22-year-old returning to pitch again this season. Strasburg reported to Nationals Park early Monday hoping to play catch and believing he could start Thursday as scheduled.
"He felt good today. His elbow felt good," Rizzo said. "But he's anxious. He wants resolution to what's going on."
The Nationals haven't announced yet who will take Strasburg's rotation spot, but right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (who has dominated in 10 minor-league starts, posting a 1.59 ERA) is expected to be recalled from Class AAA Syracuse.
Zimmermann, a second-round draft pick in 2007 who is viewed within the organization as a likely No. 2 starter behind Strasburg next season, would be making his first big-league appearance since July 18, 2009. He underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery one month later.
Strasburg will receive the second MRI within the next 72 hours, likely on Thursday, with Nationals orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih performing the procedure. Rizzo said the pitcher is not currently scheduled to see any other doctors.
This injury is similar to one that plagued teammate John Lannan earlier this season. The left-hander, who later admitted he had been pitching in some pain for a few weeks, never went on the DL but did miss one start before returning to the mound.
That, plus the fact Strasburg claims the same thing happened to him in college and he remained in the game, gives the Nationals some reason for optimism. But is that enough to convince team officials to let him pitch again this season?
"If the news is as good as what was originally said, if he just had a little ache there that he pitched through in college several times, we would take that into consideration," manager Jim Riggleman said. "But it's just too early to tell. We've got at least 15 days before we would even have to make that decision. We need to see what conclusively is said by the doctor when he looks at this."