Stephen Strasburg’s Tommy John Surgery: Not the End of the World

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REUTERS/Larry Downing

Sure, baseball’s youngest phenom is shelved until possibly as late as April 2012. But there’s a long list of past patients who have recovered to reach all-star heights.

When news broke on Friday morning that Washington Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg has a significant tear in his right elbow, it was instant apocalypse. The best thing General Manager Mike Rizzo could do to dissuade the impending depression was make positive points of comparison.

“We have a big, powerful 23-year-old right-handed pitcher with power stuff,” Rizzo told The success rate for guys coming back from Tommy John and retaining that stuff is very good. We saw two examples of it on the mound yesterday with Chris Carpenter and Jordan Zimmermann. We saw Tim Hudson come back from Tommy John surgery in Atlanta.”

Rizzo has an even larger database of names at his disposal. Washington Post‘s Adam Kilgore notes that ten pitchers who previously underwent the same procedure reached this year’s All-Star game. Yahoo! Sports dives back even furtherfurther, to a lineup that includes David Wells, John Smoltz and A.J. Burnett.

But one doubtful twist to that veteran list: the heavy frequency of single-season success stories. None of those arms won 300 games, and several will not get a blip of Hall-of-Fame consideration. ESPN’s Rob Neyer believes the best hope for Strasburg is to pitch as well in 2012 as he did in 2010 before inheriting the tear.

When dealing with a young arm and an unpredictable surgery, what more can you ask for? Tommy John surgery novices can head over to the Washington Post for how the procedure works.