Strasburg could need major surgery on ligament tear

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington Nationals rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg has a significant ligament tear in his right elbow and will probably need major surgery that could sideline him for a year, the team said on Friday.

The promising right-hander will seek a second opinion before the Nationals make a final decision on whether surgery is needed, the team said on its website (www.washington.nationals.mlb.com).

He could miss at least a year and perhaps the entire 2011 season if he undergoes the surgery to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the Washington Post reported (www.washingtonpost.com).

The procedure, called Tommy John surgery, is named after a former Major League pitcher who was the first professional athlete to successfully undergo the operation in 1974.

An arthrogram late on Thursday determined the serious tear in Strasburg's ulnar collateral ligament, the Nationals said.

The first pick in the 2009 draft, the 22-year-old already was on the disabled list because of a flexor strain on his right forearm.

He hurt his forearm on Saturday while pitching against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The hard-throwing pitcher already had become the ace of the Nationals' pitching staff, compiling a 5-3 record with a 2.91 earned run average in 12 starts.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; editing by Pritha Sarkar.)