The Washington Nationals’ rookie phenom pitching sensation, and from how it was building, the saviorĀ of Major League Baseball, is done for the season — and maybe next season as well!!! The team announced Friday that he has a torn ligament in his right elbow. He will travel Saturday to the West Coast for a second opinion, but the 22-year-old right-hander has accepted the fact that he will need the ligament replacement operation that requires 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation.

It is called Tommy John surgery, and it is a surgical procedure in which a ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body (often from the forearm, hamstring, knee, or foot of the patient). The procedure is common for athletes in several sports, but most notably baseball.

Strasburg grimaced, then grabbed and shook his wrist after throwing a 1-1 changeup in Philadelphia on Saturday. It turned out to be his last pitch of the year. The Nationals initially called the injury a strained flexor tendon in the forearm, but an MRI taken Sunday raised enough questions for the Nationals to order a more extensive MRI in which dye was injected into the prized right arm.

Strasburg could hardly believe the bad news, especially because his arm has felt fine all week.

“It didn’t take a matter of minutes” to sink in, he said. “[It] took definitely a few hours. I’ve got great support all around me, and they reminded me of everything I should be thankful for, and they put everything in perspective for me. Bottom line, this is a game. I’m very blessed to play this game for a living. It’s a minor setback, but in the grand scheme of things it’s just a blip on the radar screen.”

Strasburg is as intense as he is competitive. He wants the ball. He was disappointed when he had to start the season in the minors and wasn’t exactly thrilled with the restrictions the Nationals had placed on him. Now he faces something he’s never experienced in his baseball life: surgery on his arm and the realistic prospect of not pitching again until 2012.

Sadly, Strasburg has had medical setbacks despite the team’s best efforts to be as cautious as possible. He was placed on the disabled list a month ago because of inflammation in the back of his right shoulder. He was making his third start since returning from the DL when he had to leave the game against the Phillies.

Treez Says: I am not sure if this is entirely the Washington Nationals’ fault. This could have happened regardless. But fans don’t look at things rationally, and I wonder how many people were crying when they heard the news. And I am not referring to the Nationals’ “upper brass”. They went past crying a long time ago. We may have to keep them on a “suicide watch”.