The Washington Times - September 13, 2012, 06:07PM

Throughout the season, when the topic of Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit, of his impending shut down, was brought up, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has cited the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Lewis Yocum. He was one of the many sources Rizzo said he consulted when making the decision to end Strasburg’s season prematurely.

He wasn’t the only source, and Rizzo was very clear about that. But Rizzo has said on several occasions that Yocum’s consult was a part of the decision-making process.


“This isn’t Mike Rizzo’s plan, he didn’t go to Medical school but Dr. Lew Yocum did and Dr. James Andrews did,” Rizzo said on his radio show on the Nationals’ flagship station, 106.7, in mid-August. “We’re taking their recommendations and putting them into place. (Yocum’s) the one who set up the rehabilitation schedule, which we followed to the T and he’s the one that kind of guides us through how to get these guys back on the mound effectively.”

On Thursday, Yocum told the Los Angeles Times that he was, in fact, not a part of the conversation.

“I wasn’t asked,” Yocum said. While he did not criticize the Nationals’ plan or refute that it was one course of action, he did say that “he would not have been able to provide conclusive information about whether Strasburg’s long-term health would be best served by shutting him down.” That is consistent with what other doctors have said and what the Nationals have acknowledged but Rizzo has maintained that it was ultimately his decision alone and this was the path he felt was best.

Rizzo did not return a call seeking a response to the Times’ article — an article that represented a departure from everything the Nationals have said to this point, even insinuating he had no part in the Nationals’ plan to shut down Jordan Zimmermann in 2011, which they did after 161 1/3 innings.

Even Strasburg himself cited Yocum on Saturday when he addressed his shutdown for the first time.

“I think I’ve got some world renowned doctors, one of them Dr. (Lewis) Yocum,” Strasburg said. “He resurrected my career. I gotta listen to him and I gotta trust him.”

UPDATE:Yocum has clarified his comments in the L.A. Times, issuing this statement to the L.A. Times:

“I would like to correct the misimpression generated from today’s L.A. Times article, that I have not been a participant in discussions with the Washington Nationals regarding the recovery strategy for pitcher Stephen Strasburg. In fact, I have been contacted repeatedly and have had numerous discussions with the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and the team’s medical personnel, as recently as mid-August.  While the final decision was up to the team, as is standard practice, I was supportive of their decision and am comfortable that my medical advice was responsibly considered.”

Strasburg’s agent Scott Boras told the Washington Post that he was aware of “repeated communication between the Nationals’ doctor and Dr. Yocum” during the season.

Since the start of spring training, the Nationals have also sent two different prospects, Sammy Solis and Lucas Giolito, to Yocum for examinations and subsequent Tommy John surgeries of their own, so there has certainly been some sort of communication between the team and the surgeon.

There appears to be a disconnect here, one that was not made public until Yocum’s comments appeared in the Times.

But there are a few points that need to be made before it’s presumed that the Nationals should alter the decision they’ve already made or that they were being entirely untruthful throughout.

Medical advice has been the lynchpin upon which the Nationals have said their decision was based — but it was not their only deciding factor.

Rizzo has said the words “eye test” repeatedly this season and manager Davey Johnson has talked about similar methods. They were not just counting Strasburg’s innings but watching him, watching his fatigue levels. And what they determined they saw, they got to without the advice of a doctor. They saw what they felt was a sometimes-inconsistent performance, consistent with that of Tommy John survivors and with that of a pitcher who’d yet to full build up his innings endurance.

“I have a little bit of experience in how to handle a pitching staff,” Johnson said last week. “The handling of any pitcher, they like regular work… And there’s dangers in changing a pitcher’s program. If you put enough thought in on how you’re going to handle a pitcher or player in getting him prepared for the season, there’s never any second-guessing.”

Rizzo reiterated that point as well.

“It’s a good conversational piece, it’s a good debatable subject,” Rizzo said prior to Strasburg’s final start. “But most of the people that have weighed in on this know probably 10 percent of the information that we know, and that we’ve made our opinion based upon.”

“We’ve been consistent with every player in the developmental system, and we’ve treated them all the same: with as much care as Stephen Strasburg. Just because we’re in a different position in the standings, we’re not going to forego my philosophy of player development and keeping pitchers healthy. We’re being consistent with it throughout.”