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Three of the Nationals’ most important players underwent various surgical procedures in the last three days, the club announced Saturday morning, with Stephen Strasburg and Adam LaRoche each having their elbows repaired and Bryce Harper having his knee fixed.
All face recovery times of 4-to-6 weeks and are expected to be ready for the start of spring training, the Nationals said.
Strasburg had arthroscopic surgery on Friday to remove bone chips from his right elbow, a previously undisclosed injury. The “clean-up” procedure was performed in Los Angeles by orthopedist Neal ElAttrache.
Strasburg had to be scratched from two consecutive September starts with what the Nationals said at the time was “forearm tightness,” an ailment he experienced while playing catch the day before he was scheduled to pitch. The right-hander did return to make two final starts before the season ended and reported no problems, but the forearm tightness may have been a byproduct of the elbow injury.
“I don’t really know why it’s happening,” he said upon missing his first appearance. “When it happens, it happens. It’s like a strong cramp, so I just think I would put us in a bind if I went out there and felt it. We’d definitely be down some pitchers.”
This is the second time Strasburg has needed elbow surgery in his career, though this minor procedure was in no way related to the ligament replacement surgery he had in 2010.
Strasburg has dealt with a few other minor injuries since returning from the Tommy John surgery in 2011, but until now none were tied to his arm. The 25-year-old went 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts this season, totaling a career-high 183 innings. He’s expected to resume his throwing program in 4-to-6 weeks, though full recovery for pitchers who have bone chips removed from their elbows typically is 3-to-4 months. That should still coincide with the start of spring training.
Harper’s surgery was less of a surprise, considering the lingering left knee pain he experienced during the season’s final 4 1/2 months, all a result of his collision with the right field wall at Dodger Stadium on May 13.
The procedure Harper had performed on him Wednesday in Vail, Colo., by orthopedist Richard Steadman involved the debriding and repairing of the bursa sac in his left knee, which was damaged on the play in Los Angeles.
He spent more than a month on the disabled list and was examined by orthopedist James Andrews, who said surgery wasn’t necessary at the time, but Harper admitted at season’s end he hadn’t been 100 percent healthy since the initial collision.
Harper, who also dealt with injuries to his left hip and ribcage, wound up playing in only 118 games this season, hitting .274 with 20 homers, 58 RBI and an .854 OPS. He’s expected to resume workouts in 4-to-6 weeks and be fully healed by the start of spring training.
LaRoche endured through a difficult season himself, hitting a career-low .237 with 20 homers and 62 RBI in 152 games, but he never reported any trouble with his elbow. He had surgery on Wednesday, though, to remove loose bodies from his left elbow, a procedure performed in the District by team medical director Wiemi Douoguih.
LaRoche, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Nationals last winter, will resume workouts in 4-to-6 weeks and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.