Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Bryce Harper all expect to be close to full health entering spring training after undergoing surgeries in the offseason.
Strasburg had bone chips removed from his right elbow on Oct. 26. He had pitched through forearm tightness last season. Harper fought through a painful left knee injury, one that bothered him even before a nasty collision with the outfield wall at Dodgers Stadium in May. His surgery was Oct. 24. LaRoche, who had a down season compared to his fine 2012, also had surgery on Oct. 24 to remove bone chips from his left elbow.
Speaking at NatsFest, a gathering of thousands of fans at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor on Saturday. Strasburg said he’s no longer in rehab mode. That was expected to last four-to-six weeks after surgery. Now he’s back to a normal schedule with pitchers and catcher reporting to spring training in 20 days.
“I feel great. Normal schedule,” Strasburg said. “Doing my throwing, lifting, running, the whole shebang, Just kind of getting ready for spring training, no problems.”
Strasburg still managed a 3.00 ERA with 191 strikeouts and a 1.05 walks/hits to innings pitched ratio even while pitching through pain. Harper missed 44 games thanks in most part to the knee injury, but admitted Saturday that pain had bothered him for at least a year, if not longer. His rehab was also set to take four-to-six weeks and he began sprinting in early January for the first time.
“Hopefully I don’t have to go through that again,” Harper said. “I don’t like getting hurt. I like being on the field. I like playing.”
Harper says he’s hitting and running pain free, but was still less definitive about being 100 percent ready for the start of spring training and manager Matt Williams said his job is to maximize Harper’s at-bats while making sure he doesn’t over do it before the season starts April 1 in New York. But as for changing his overall style of play? That’s not going to happen.
“[Harper is] gonna run into walls. It’s gonna happen,” Williams said. “Luckily they’re padded and I just hope he doesn’t damage the stadium when he does. But he has to play the way he plays. You can’t take his aggressiveness away from him because he’s always played that way. So what we need to do is maybe be a little smarter. Position him in a spot where he can get to a ball where he doesn’t have to run into a wall…But I’m not going to put a harness on him.”
LaRoche, meanwhile, is expected to be 100 percent by next week after that elbow surgery, according to Washington general manager Mike Rizzo. LaRoche was not at NatsFest on Saturday.
His timetable was again four-to-six weeks. LaRoche played in 152 games last season, but his batting average dropped from. 271 to .237 and his OPS fell from .853 to .735. John Philbin, the Nats’ strength and conditioning coach, visited LaRoche, Harper and Strasburg this winter to check on their progress. So did team trainer Lee Kuntz.