Last Saturday, Stephen Strasburg, in his first game back after a short DL stint, left his start against the Philadelphia Phillies with an injury to his pitching arm. This morning, the news came down from GM Mike Rizzo that Strasburg will need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a significant tear in his UCL, and will most likely miss the entire 2011 season.

Strasburg, who was undoubtedly baseball’s best pitcher during the first month of his career, finishes a shortened rookie season 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts to just 17 walks in 68 innings pitched.

This situation is eerily reminiscent of Francisco Liriano’s 2006 season. The Twins ace exploded onto the scene in ’06, and looked like a Cy Young contender at midseason. After a month-long stint on the DL, Liriano made two starts, one in late August and the next in early September, before landing back on the DL and eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery.

This is without a doubt bad news. But it is important to remember that Liriano has been one of baseball’s best pitchers this year. The same can be said for fellow TJS recipient Josh Johnson.

While the road to recovery is long and Strasburg may not be himself right away, the surgery now has a very high success rate. This isn’t going to end Strasburg’s career, and he should be back to 100 percent within two years. While his questionable mechanics and electric stuff could lead to further injury in the future, we’ve seen plenty of pitchers return from TJS and stay healthy long-term.

As difficult a situation as TJS is, there is a silver lining here. This injury gives the Nationals another year to become a competitive organization. The service time clock has stopped ticking for now, and the Nationals will control their phenom for an additional year before he reaches free agency.

This not only gives the Nationals a bigger window of competition with Strasburg, but also increases his future trade value should the team not become competitive in the next three to four years.

Stephen Strasburg might be the most talented pitcher in the game, and as a baseball fan, I want to see the guy pitch. Thankfully, this is unlikely to be the end of his career or the end of his dominance, and Nationals fans can take solace in the fact that there team now has another year to become a competitor in the National League East and win with Stephen Strasburg as their ace.

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