WASHINGTON -- Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner acknowledged that he didn't get much sleep Thursday night after learning that right-hander Stephen Strasburg will likely need Tommy John surgery.

Strasburg has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is expected to make a comeback within 12 to 18 months. Lerner believes that Strasburg's recovery will be like that of teammate Jordan Zimmermann, who had similar surgery and was on the mound within a year. Zimmermann made his first start of the 2010 season on Thursday against the Cardinals.

"I didn't cry, but I didn't get much sleep. It was devastating," Lerner said about the Strasburg injury. "We all admire the young man. I know two days after the surgery he will ask, 'When can I get back to the gym? When can I start doing this and that?' There is no reason to think he can't come back strong.

"I can't put it into words. You feel so sorry for the young man. He is such a great kid. When he left [the stadium], I think he felt a little bit better. He was certainly down and it's understandable. But I think he is ready to take on the challenge. He is going to give his all and do rehab just like he gave his all when he went on the mound."

Although the Nationals won't have the services of Strasburg for some time, Lerner said the team has a bright future ahead of it. He mentioned that Minor Leaguers such as second baseman Danny Espinosa and catcher Wilson Ramos are expected to have an impact on the Major League roster shortly.

"We have so many great parts coming," Lerner said. "The pitching staff is coming around. I'm sure [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] is going to have to something in the offseason to make up for Stephen's loss. We are not holding our heads down. We are going to survive this and we will continue to put the best product on the field. It's our goal to build a championship."

Strasburg has Zimmermann's support

WASHINGTON -- A day after learning that he needed Tommy John surgery, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg sought out teammate Jordan Zimmermann, who went through the same procedure in August of last year.

Zimmermann played his first Major League game of 2010 on Thursday. It took only 12 months to recover because he didn't have any setbacks. Zimmermann told Strasburg to work hard, not have doubts in himself and keep his head up.

"He said, 'Early on you are going to be questioning yourself,'" Strasburg said, recalling his conversation with Zimmermann. "It's going to be really, really good some days. The next day, it will be tight. So he said, 'You just have to remind yourself that it is 100-percent healthy, just to push through and just stick with the program, not try to do too much. At the same time, get what you need done.'"

Strasburg and Zimmermann are expected to be a dynamic one-two combo in the Nationals' rotation, but that will probably not happen until 2012.

"It will happen someday," Zimmermann said. "Unfortunately, you have to wait a while. I really don't look at the duo part. I just want to pitch with the guy and be on the same team as him. Hopefully, he will be back in the next year."