ATLANTA — The Washington Nationals were caught off-guard and confused by the comments of Dr. Lewis Yocum, the surgeon who performed Tommy John surgery on Stephen Strasburg, when he was quoted in the L.A. Times on Thursday as saying he “wasn’t asked” for his input on the decision.
Yocum has since corrected himself, issuing a statement to the L.A. Times late Thursday afternoon to clarify.
“I would like to correct the misimpression generated from (Thursday’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,” Yocum said.
“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.”
The initial comments represented a significant departure from what the Nationals and Rizzo had said consistently throughout the year when the topic of Strasburg’s shut down came up, and multiple members of the organization said Friday that they were stunned to read what Yocum had said.
In addition, Yocum initially said he hadn’t spoken with Rizzo since last year or with Strasburg since spring training, but he amended that in his statement, noting he’d spoken with them multiple times, including in mid-August. A source familiar with the situation corroborated that, noting the sides had spoken as recently as Aug. 13.
Rizzo has said publicly, and on the record, that Yocum and Dr. James Andrews were participants in setting out the plan for Strasburg, the same way they did with Jordan Zimmermann a year ago. The Nationals have said repeatedly that the amount of information they gathered on the topic before coming to their decision is vast but the doctors’ opinions and input was certainly a part of it.
Yocum was not a direct participant in when the Nationals decided to shut down their ace right-hander, but his advice and direction was a part of the decision-making process, team sources reiterated.
Yocum did not criticize the Nationals’ handling of the issue, only saying to the L.A. Times that he couldn’t provide “conclusive information about whether Strasburg’s long-term health would be best served by shutting him down.”
Andrews has also been on record as praising the Nationals for their course of action with Strasburg.
“He’s such a young pitcher, such a tremendous talent, and I think prevention and being careful with these high-level pitchers is certainly admirable,” Andrews told ESPN Radio in late August. “So I would certainly take up for the decision. And I don’t know first-hand — there’s probably a lot of intangibles that helped them make that decision. But I don’t think you can criticize that one bit, to be honest with you.”