After missing most of spring training and the start of the season with elbow issues, Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen got the news no pitcher ever wants to hear, “it’s time to see Dr. James Andrews.”
During spring training, Storen had some discomfort in his throwing elbow, so he was shut down and was given a wet MRI to check for any ulnar collateral ligament damage. Damage to the UCL typically requires Tommy John surgery; it was the ligament that caused Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann to go under the knife over the last few seasons. Luckily for the Nats, the UCL appeared in tact, but unfortunately, they weren’t out of the woods yet.
After being shut down for several weeks, and having no issues throwing off of flat ground according to Charlie and Dave on the Nats broadcast on Monday, Storen experienced a setback when trying to throw off of a mound. So off he goes, to see Dr. Andrews, the standard in elbow docs in baseball.
Typically, a trip to Dr. Andrews is a trip that ends under the knife, but there’s always a chance that the consultation goes better than expected. Davey Johnson indicated that the Nats believe he may have “loose bodies” in his elbow. If you remember back to 2010, former Nats pitcher Jason Marquis missed approximately four months after having surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.
The concern with Storen is his age. As pitchers get older, it’s more likely that bone chips or loose bodies end up in the elbow fairly regularly. For Storen, just 24, it’s another concern. He has a high intensity windup and throws the ball extremely hard and with significant effort. If Dr. Andrews does find loose bodies, it’s highly likely he could find them again in the future, and it’s not a pattern a young pitcher wants to go through.
As for the Nationals bullpen, they’re obviously weaker without their 43-save closer, but the Brad Lidge signing does a lot to mask that hole for a while. Lidge probably can’t be an every day closer, but a platoon of Lidge and Henry Rodriguez can keep the back end going if Storen has to miss any significant time. Despite Rodriguez’ loss on Monday in the 9th inning, he’s proven that he can close games for the team with his improved command and ridiculous stuff.
The Nationals are obviously better with Drew Storen in their bullpen though, and the Nats will do everything they can to make sure he becomes part of it this season. With the trip to see Dr. James Andrews, it just makes everyone a bit more concerned about when that return will be.