Tonight’s the night. Strasmas II. The Strassurection. Call it what you want, but Stephen Strasburg returns to a major league mound to face the Dodgers. His first game that counts since Tommy John surgery a year and three days ago.
Everyone talks about the physical adjustments after ligament surgery. The velocity often comes back fairly quickly, but the touch and command lags. Often by weeks and months. One thing people don’t talk about is the mental adjustment. There can’t be anything more boring and tedious than injury rehab. Most of it is spent by oneself, working out early mornings at some facility a thousand miles from where the team is playing and a million miles from the mental state a major leaguer would expect to have in the middle of a baseball season.
But it had to have been even more extreme for Strasburg, for he went from the center of the baseball world’s attention to that painful solitude practically overnight. And now his return is more highly anticipated and hyped than just about any similar return I can recall. His physical journey has been as tough as any rehabbing pitcher’s, but his mental journey has to have been much tougher.
So let’s watch tonight to see if he can snap off some of that crazy stuff he showed during those few crazy weeks he captured the nation’s attention in 2010. But let’s also see if we can’t tell if he’s, well, a little crazy from the roller coaster ride.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.