- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2016

Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was on a mound Friday for the first time in a month.

He threw fastballs and changeups in a 25-pitch bullpen session which he said went well. The Nationals asked him to throw at 50 percent of his normal velocity during his first bullpen, which Strasburg joked would mean he would be throwing roughly 45 mph, so that was not going to happen.

“I wouldn’t say it was full intensity because it was the first day off the mound,” Strasburg said. “I would say it was crisp and I was letting it go. I wasn’t necessarily going full steam.”

The right-hander is not sure if he will be available for the playoffs, but Friday’s modest session was a significant step for a pitcher the Nationals signed to a $175 million contract in May.

Strasburg has not pitched since Sept. 7, when he came out of the game in the third inning because of strained flexor mass in his right elbow. Seeing Strasburg flex his arm on the mound prompted initial concerns that he had again torn his ulnar collateral ligament. The Nationals took the rare step of making head trainer Paul Lessard available to the media to explain that Strasburg’s UCL was intact, and the he was dealing with a strained flexor.

Even Strasburg was concerned at the time that he had again tore his UCL and would require a second Tommy John surgery.

“Yeah the thought crossed my mind,” Strasburg said. “Anytime you have it in there I try to change this about me but I automatically assume the worst, I’m just thankful that it wasn’t. They said my UCL looked solid, in great shape so I think in the big picture this is probably the best news I could get.”

Strasburg explained the he had a partially torn pronator tendon in his right elbow and a flexor strain. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection shortly after the injury, then did not throw for seven days. He said Friday that his arm is now healed and he is going step-by-step through the throwing program outlined by Dr. Robin West, who works for the Nationals, and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who provided a second opinion.

“I just kind of developed some weakness in my flexor mass probably over an extended period of time,” Strasburg said. “Probably a couple months. Then when I partially tore my pronator tendon; when it happened initially, I probably thought the worst. Luckily it wasn’t that. It was not until after the [platelet-rich plasma injection] and the seven days of no throwing it was feeling normal.

“But then it was kind of like now I’ve got to build up the strength around it and stuff, playing catch sub max. That was a kind of longer period. That was part of the program anyway, to play light catch. Just not push it. Just kind of strengthen it that way. At this point now when I play catch, I’m not really thinking about it and letting it go. Feels good. Now the question is how fast can I get built back up and how fast can I get built back up safely.”

Strasburg said he will likely throw again from a mound on Monday. A possible location for that session would appear to be Single-A Potomac. The Nationals had to shut down their instructional league work at their spring training home in Viera, Florida, because of hurricane Matthew.

Strasburg is not crossing days off the calendar with a specific eye on when the next playoff round starts.

“To be honest, I don’t really look too far ahead,” Strasburg said. “I’m sure they are probably looking at that. But, I think for my career and the next seven years hopefully with this ball club I just want to be right and hopefully the program gets me right in some capacity while we’re still playing, but I can’t look that far ahead. I think I just got to keep staying the course and not do something silly that [will] maybe give me a setback.”

He’s frustrated to miss the playoffs for the second time. He was memorably shut down for the 2012 playoffs to limit his innings.

“The first time was weird because I didn’t know any better and I wasn’t hurt,” Strasburg said.

This time, he’s going to work through his program with the intent of being available before the playoffs are over for the Nationals.

“I keep telling myself that,” Strasburg said. “That’s why I didn’t shut it down. So I’m working hard every single day to hopefully be in a position to pitch but I can’t speculate on that at this point. This was the first day I threw off a mound and it felt good so I’m just going to take that and focus on the next time I get on the mound.”

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