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Nationals pitcher Strasburg, 2019 World Series MVP, announces retirement

Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg - The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg announced his retirement Sunday, ending the 2019 World Series MVP’s injury-filled career.

Since leading Washington to its only World Series title five years ago, the 35-year-old Strasburg pitched just 31 1/3 innings over eight starts.

“I realized after repeated attempts to return to pitching, injuries no longer allow me to perform at a major league level,” Strasburg said in a statement. His retirement had been listed on Major League Baseball’s transaction page Saturday.

General manager Mike Rizzo, who selected Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 amateur draft, said the right-hander was on “the Mount Rushmore of the Nationals.”

“When he was on the mound, he was as good as any pitcher in baseball — ever,” Rizzo said Sunday before the Nationals played the Phillies. “Unfortunately for him and for us, it wasn’t as we wanted it to be.”

Strasburg was 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA over 13 seasons and made three All-Star appearances. He led the National League with 18 victories in 2019 and then delivered a dominant postseason, going 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA over six appearances. That included wins in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series in Houston.

He signed a $245 million, seven-year contract in December 2019 but threw only 528 pitches over 31 1/3 innings in the majors after that, going 1-4 with a 6.89 ERA. He had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve and blood disorder that led to the removal of a rib and two neck muscles.

Strasburg has not pitched since June 9, 2022, when he lasted 4 2/3 innings in his lone start of the season before going back on the injured list. He did not report for spring training in 2023 or 2024.

“You just feel for somebody like that who was such a good player for a long time,” said Washington pitcher Patrick Corbin, who signed with the Nationals before the 2019 season in part to join a rotation that included Strasburg. “It’s just unfortunate with the injuries and some setbacks. He tried everything to come back and be part of this team and things just didn’t work out.”

Washington started planning for a retirement news conference last August but didn't call for one as Strasburg and the Nationals discussed restructuring his contract. The deal called for him to receive $35 million annually, with $11,428,571 a year deferred at 1% interest. The deferred money was payable in equal installments of $26,666,667 on July 1 in 2027, 2028 and 2029, with an interest payment of $3,999,974 on Dec. 31, 2029.

Strasburg was viewed as a franchise cornerstone when Washington drafted him. He arrived in the majors almost exactly a year later, when he struck out 14 in a debut against Pittsburgh on June 8, 2010, in a performance that was quickly dubbed “Strasmas.”

Within three months, Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery and was lost for most of the 2011 season. The Nationals shut him down late in the 2012 season, and criticism of the team was amplified when it lost to St. Louis in the NL Division Series.

Strasburg threw 150 regular-season innings five times, including a NL-high 209 in 2019. That was before he struck out 47 over 36 1/3 innings that October.

“He was a horse out there on the mound,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “Not every day he felt good, but every five days he’d take the ball and give you everything he had no matter what.”

Nationals owner Mark Lerner released a statement congratulating Strasburg on his career.

“It was a privilege to watch him grow as a player and a person throughout his illustrious career,” Lerner said. “He gave us so many memories that will live in our hearts forever.”

In his statement, Strasburg thanked coaches, teammates and medical staff, and he acknowledged the “unwavering support” of fans throughout his career.

“Although I will always wish there were more games to be pitched, I find comfort knowing I left it all out there for the only team I’ve known,” Strasburg wrote. “My family and I are truly fortunate and blessed to have experienced this baseball journey in the Nation’s Capitol.”