The Washington Nationals on Tuesday told reporters that right-hander Stephen Strasburg will undergo neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery to address a nerve issue in his neck that's sidelined him since early June. The hope is that Strasburg will be recovered in time for a normal spring training in 2022.
Strasburg also missed time in April and May with shoulder inflammation. Together, injuries have limited him to just five starts in 2021, and over that span he's pitched to 4.57 ERA and 1.50 K/BB ratio -- both marks significantly worse than his career norms. He also was limited to a pair of appearances in the abbreviated 2020 season before being shut down because of right carpal tunnel neuritis.
Those injuries stand in contrast with the success Strasburg enjoyed in 2019, when he finished fifth in the NL Cy Young balloting and won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award for the champion Nationals.
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That October, he threw 36 innings across six appearances (five of them starts) with a dominant 1.98 ERA and uber-dominant 47-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Shortly thereafter, the Nationals signed him to a seven-year contract worth $245 million.
Thoracic outlet surgery can pose significant challenges for pitchers who undergo it, and it's not to be assumed that Strasburg, now 33, will ever regain his prior form. Even if worst-case scenarios are realized, however, he's already a Nats franchise legend.