How Stephen Strasburg's 2018 injury could help inform his timeline for return

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

It's been two weeks since Stephen Strasburg made his second trip of the season to the Injured List. While he's officially listed as having a "neck strain," Strasburg is in fact going through the same nerve injury as he did three years ago, general manager Mike Rizzo says.

"It's the same thing he had in 2018 where he had the nerve from his neck — that goes down to his shoulder and arm — was irritated," Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on Wednesday. "He has seen Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache out in L.A. to get a diagnosis. We've got that. We're sending him to a specialist in Dallas."

"So he's in the midst of... we're getting information gathering, trying to figure out how to stop this thing so it doesn't keep reoccurring," he said. "But the good thing is it's not shoulder, it's not elbow. It's none of the fragile parts in a pitcher's arm. So once we figure out this thing, a lot like 2018, we'll get him back once he gets built up and starts pitching again. So that's the update on him."

Rizzo's update could actually be quite informative.

In fact, Strasburg's recent injuries and corresponding trips to the Injured List are playing out with almost the exact same timing as before. In June 2018, Strasburg hit the DL with "right shoulder inflammation" and returned approx. one month later, for five days, before heading back to the DL with a "cervical nerve impingement."

Now three years later, Strasburg's first trip to the IL began in April with "right shoulder inflammation," he returned approx. one month later, for 12 days, and then returned to the IL with a "neck strain" on Wednesday, June 2 after facing only seven batters the night before.

Just as he has this time around, Strasburg also sought the medical opinion of Dr. ElAttrache in 2018. If the Nationals are indeed following the same blueprint as they did three years ago — and it certainly appears that they are — then with the same outcome, Nats fans could optimistically expect Strasburg's return as soon as two weeks from now.