WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg has decided to retire, ending a career that began as a No. 1 draft pick, included 2019 World Series MVP honors and was derailed by injuries, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because Strasburg has not spoken publicly about his plans. The person told The AP that Strasburg is expected to hold a news conference before a game at Nationals Park next month.
The Washington Post first reported Strasburg’s decision to retire, saying the announcement is expected to come Sept. 9.
“When healthy, he was one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the game,” longtime teammate Ryan Zimmerman told The AP by phone Thursday. “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who worked harder than he did. He deserves to be celebrated because he was a pretty special player. You could argue that he lived up to, or even exceeded, what was expected of a No. 1 pick.”
Strasburg, who turned 35 last month, had his career knocked off course and ultimately cut short by injuries after leading the Nationals to their first title in franchise history four years ago. He had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve and blood disorder that involved removing a rib and two neck muscles.
The right-hander has not pitched since June 9, 2022 — his only start that season, which lasted 4 2/3 innings before going back on the injured list. He has thrown only 528 pitches in the majors since signing a $245 million, seven-year contract in December 2019 and did not report to spring training earlier this year after experiencing a setback.
“It’s been tough, I’m sure, for him and his family and the guys in this clubhouse miss him and we wish nothing but the best for him and what’s to come,” Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin said after a 6-5 win over the Yankees. "He’s a big reason why we’re here and a big reason why we have a championship ring.”
Strasburg, featuring a 100-plus mph fastball, was touted as a generational talent before becoming the first pick in the 2009 draft, and he became one of the faces of Washington's franchise after making his anticipated debut on July 8, 2010. He struck out 14 batters and allowed two runs on four hits with no walks against the Pittsburgh Pirates to win a memorable game that became known as “Strasmas.”
That night still sticks out to Zimmerman, the retired infielder who was the first draft pick by the Nationals after they moved from Montreal to Washington for the 2005 season and owner of most of the club’s hitting records.
“To be the type of prospect that he was — in an age where everyone gets hyped up so much, you almost expect to be let down — and him being this next phenom, and then to actually do that in his first start, it was fun to be a part of that,” Zimmerman said. "The electricity. The crowd. The excitement. All for a game in the middle of the season. It was like something I’d never really seen before.”
Strasburg is owed just over $150 million beyond this season on the $245 million contract he signed in 2019, which set records for the most total money and annual salary given to a pitcher. It was unclear if the sides had negotiated a buyout.
After Strasburg had Tommy John surgery early in his career, the Nationals took heat for shutting him down late in the 2012 season, despite him being 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA. Without their ace, they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series.
The long-term benefit of the shutdown didn’t emerge until October 2019, when Strasburg went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA on Washington’s championship run and won each of his two starts against Houston in the World Series.
Strasburg went 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA in 247 career regular-season starts in the majors, all with Washington. He was a three-time NL All-Star and led the National League in strikeouts with 242 in 2014 and in innings pitched with 209 in 2019, which turned out to be his last full season.
AP freelance reporter Larry Fleisher in New York contributed.
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Howard Fendrich And Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press