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David Brown

Nationals expect phenom Strasburg to get 'Tommy John' surgery

David Brown
Big League Stew

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"Strasmas" has been postponed indefinitely.

The Washington Nationals announced on Friday morning that rookie right-hander Stephen Strasburg(notes) has a "significant tear" in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and that it will likely require "Tommy John" reconstructive surgery.

He and the team will seek a second medical opinion, but Strasburg — who rocketed to fame this summer with the hopes of an entire franchise pinned to his right arm — would probably miss the entire 2011 season (if not more) if surgery is required.

[Photos: More images of the Nationals star rookie ]

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo believes it will be, saying on a Nationals conference call, "I fully anticipate he will have Tommy John surgery."

Recovery for Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 draft, could take 18 months or longer.

What a bummer.

Strasburg often hit 100 mph on the radar gun, but also put seasoned major league hitters back on their heels with a devastating change-up.

And not only did Strasburg's metoric rise pump life into a blah franchise, but his shirseys (T-shirts with his name and number) were among the most popular items for fans of Nats' opponents.

Strasburg has been a league-wide phenomenon; each of his 12 starts was an event that was quickly nicknamed "Strasmas."

Though his success came quickly, the Nats seemed to take extra care — some called it babying — to make sure Strasburg didn't throw too many pitches or compile too many innings on his young arm.

Does his injury say there's just no telling?

Here's the good news: It's not Strasburg's shoulder. In the case of another top pick of years ago — Mark Prior(notes) of the Chicago Cubs — chronic shoulder injuries have practically killed his career.

After Tommy John surgery, Strasburg's elbow should be good as new. Many Tommy John patients report having stronger elbows for their trouble. The only problem: Strasburg might resume his dominance in 2012. Or '13, if his case is like that of Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano(notes).

Regardless, this is a black Friday for D.C. baseball.

The bad news comes a day after the Nats had perhaps their most exciting day of the season; 17-year-old Bryce Harper, the team's first pick in the 2010 draft and seen as a hitter's equivalent to Strasburg, donned a Nats jersey for the first time and wowed the crowd at Nationals Park with a round of batting practice.

The Nats also beat the St. Louis Cardinals, a playoff contender, in a wild 11-10 contest in 13 innings.

The Stasburg news knocks all of that Nats optimism down several pegs.

We'll have more news as it comes in.

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Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave

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