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UPDATE: Strasburg nearly ready after 5-inning rehab start

Jun 17, 2015, 1:32 PM EST

2011 AP file photo

Updated at 6:23 p.m.

Stephen Strasburg completed a strong, 5-inning rehab start at Class AA Harrisburg on Wednesday afternoon, leaving the Nationals to decide whether their enigmatic right-hander is ready to come off the disabled list now or whether he still needs more fine tuning.

Strasburg allowed two runs (only one earned) over five innings for Harrisburg, holding the Richmond Flying Squirrels to four hits while striking out six without issuing a walk. He threw 71 pitches, 48 of them for strikes, with a fastball that registered 95-97 mph. Cleared to go up to 80 total pitches, he wrapped up his afternoon by throwing nine more in the bullpen.

“Really, he had another inning in the bullpen, albeit a short inning,” manager Matt Williams said. “He went back down to the bullpen and threw nine more, to give him 80. So he really had six times up and came out of it feeling fine. We’ll see where he recovers to tomorrow and his next bullpen and see where he’s at, but it was a good outing for him.”

On the 15-day disabled list since May 30 with a strained left trapezius muscle, Strasburg was back throwing within a matter of days. He faced teammates during a 60-pitch simulated game Friday in Milwaukee, then ramped up a bit more Wednesday in his first rehab start.

Strasburg retired the first seven batters he faced in Harrisburg, striking out a pair and allowing only one ball to leave the infield, before giving up a run in the top of the third on a groundball single and an RBI double that glanced off center fielder Derrick Robinson’s glove. He gave up an unearned run in the fourth after third baseman Matt Skole threw a ball away, with a couple more groundball singles following the error. He then finished his afternoon on a high note, retiring the side in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout.

Because he hasn’t missed much time and has already built his arm up to the point he should be able to approach 100 pitches the next time he takes the mound, Strasburg could be deemed ready to come off the DL and rejoin the Nationals rotation early next week.

“It’s a possibility, yeah,” Williams said. “We have to see how he is feeling after today and how he gets through his bullpen, which won’t be for a couple more days. But after that, if he feels good to go, his pitch count is such that it would be his final spring training pitch count anyways in anticipation of start No. 1 for the season, at 80 or 85 pitches anyway. So he would be good to 100-ish for the next start. So if he feels good, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t think about that.”

It remains to be seen where exactly Strasburg would slot into the Nationals’ rotation, which remains up in the air itself for the next few days. The club hasn’t announced who will start any games during this weekend’s series against the Pirates, though Williams suggested Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross would pitch in some order. Tanner Roark could pitch on Sunday on normal rest, if needed.

  1. Toot D. Blan - Jun 17, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    Per the picture, has Strasburg channeled his inner Espinosa and grown the beard back already?

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 17, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      Credit line says “2011 file photo”

    • Mark Zuckerman - Jun 17, 2015 at 1:45 PM

      Per the caption, it’s a 2011 AP file photo from the last time he pitched at Harrisburg. No new photos from today available yet.

      • Toot D. Blan - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:00 PM

        Ah, a 2011 photo. That would explain why his head’s on straight.

  2. stoatva - Jun 17, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    6 k 8 ground ball outs in 5 innings. No walks. Sounds good.

  3. Eric - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    Who cares how he pitched…I want to know how he *** looked ***! 😉

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:25 PM

      My person therthere said Stras was good, not great. He said great first inning and strong 2nd inning then Stras tried to be too fine as the game went on and nibbled with the fastball. He felt that he had kids he should have been schooling who aren’t ever going to be Major Leaguers who barreled him up well and one that alluded an OF for a RBI double.

      Mark says “Strasburg Sharp in 5 innings at Harrisburg”.

      Sounds like you should err on the side of caution and have him rehab for another game as there’s no rush.

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:29 PM

        No walks is good. He did average 16 pitches per inning from the 2nd thru the 5th inning. Probaly shaking off some rust.

        After his outing Strasburg told reporters that he didnt know where he was heading next. I agree with you, what is the rush to get him back. Fister will be back and you still have Joe Ross and Tanner Roark as your 5th and 6th starters.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:31 PM

        Wilmer Difo made a pinch-hitting appearance and K’d.

        Turner is 2 for 4 and will get up in the 9th in a 4-3 game.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM

        From Chris Johnson: Stephen Strasburg said this is the best he’s felt since before the ankle sprain in spring training. “100 percent.” #Nats

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:37 PM

        Thats probaly most important is how he felt. He got his work in. Even given his pitch count he goes 6 innings +.

        Stras said that he went back to the bullpen to pitch some more after he finished.

        Tough call for Rizzo to make as to when you bring him back.

      • rayvil01 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:55 PM

        There’s so much vitriol being thrown at Strasburg right now that anything upping his chances for success should be done. Another rehab start? Absolutely.

        One tech question with his pitching I always have is that his 4-seamer is so laser straight it’s easier to hit than the velo would indicate. Scherzer’s 4-seamer had some tailing action on it. Wouldn’t you think a grip change on that 4-seamer would give it a little life?

      • Eric - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:54 PM

        Thanks for the field report, Ghost. I certainly wouldn’t complain about watching Ross or Roark one more time while Stras gets one more tune up. But, if Stras truly does feel 100%, why wait? Unless the feeling is that he needs to work on mechanics or something?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 4:05 PM

        I would say almost with certainty that Strasburg is pitching in DC on Tuesday.

  4. manassasnatsfan - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:30 PM

    Stras please keep working hard.

    • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:32 PM

      Do you keep him in the Minors for another start or bring him back to the rotation for Tuesday.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:54 PM

        The simple answer: either, as long as it works.

        If you bring him up and he isn’t dominating, then the commentariat will tell us that it was too soon and Ross would have been better.

        If you give Strasburg another rehab start and Ross gets smacked around in a Nats loss, then the commentariat will tell us that they should have brought him up and let Ross go back down with his confidence intact.

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:06 PM

        You know the fanbase is smarter than Rizzo when using hinsight judgment as there means to complain.

        What would you do. I think its a tough call. Stras is saying he feels great. There shouldnt be a rush.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        A fair question, nats128. Honestly I’m not sure what I’d do, so I’m pretty much inclined to give the team a pass whichever way they go.

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:20 PM

        I think Stras is back on Tuesday.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    Ghost, this will interest you:

    Ike Davis delivered a single and drove in two runs in four at-bats on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville on Monday. He was the designated hitter for the Sounds on Tuesday and is due to join the A’s for a series against the Padres in the Coliseum beginning Wednesday. Melvin said there was a chance Davis would be activated for Wednesday’s game.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:14 PM

      That trade is on hold because the Nats got some rookie phenom named Clint Robinson.

      It will be interesting as Beane wants to just give him away to get rid of the salary in the ole salary dump.

      Thanks for the intel.

  6. nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:42 PM

    A double by Trea Turner in the 9th!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      Game over and Turner and Strasburg were the stars of that game.

      Turner quickly is batting .333 with 2 RBIs and 2 steals.

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:48 PM

        Strasburg takes the hard luck loss. If MW was managing he would have let him pitch the 6th so he could try to get the W. j/k not j/k

    • stoatva - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:47 PM

      He’s ready! Bring him up! 😀

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:50 PM

        Jim Bowden thinks so. 😉

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:49 PM

    “@masncj: Stephen Strasburg: “Today was a good day. I felt like I was back to where I was mechanically before.” #Nats”

    That’s great to hear.

  8. kirbs3256 - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    I would let him do one more rehab. I don’t want any kind of limit on anyone.

  9. jd - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Just my opinion but I think Stras starts in DC against Atlanta next Tuesday. Roark back to the pen, Ross back to AA and Hill back to AAA.

    BTW, I looked over the Harrisburg lineup, ugly. Not sure why Difo didn’t start the last couple of games. I can think of only 2 possible reasons: slight injury or he’s working on his 2nd base skills and he’s not ready to play there yet. I’m kind of surprised he has been playing at SS these last few weeks knowing Turner is on his way.

    Bostick starting in the outfield tells me he is destined to become a 5th infilder/4th outfielder. Could be valuable if his bat plays in the big leagues.

    The only real prospects I can think of in our entire organization not counting pitchers are: Turner, Difo and Severino. (Bostick if you twist my arm). Am I missing someone?

    • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:08 PM

      Yes, slight injury. He did pinch hit today and K’d.

    • therealjohnc - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:21 PM

      Drew Ward & Jackson Reetz have their fans. But if the ship hasn’t already sailed on Skole and Goodwin, it’s getting steam up at the pier.

    • unkyd59 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:50 PM

      What about Reetz? I believe I’ve heard encouraging things about him?

  10. Drew - Jun 17, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    Turner’s 3 for 5 with two steals is great news.

    He started 0-11 at AA San Antonio and had a 1 for 17 skid in April before he caught fire.

    On a previous thread someone asked why Difo started off playing short at Harrisburg.

    Remember that it took a few days to clear the decks. Not only did the Nats deal 2b Tony Renda to the Yankees.

    They also kicked MI Rick Hague upstairs to Syracuse.

    • jd - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:02 PM

      Fair point.

  11. jd - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    I am 100% against dealing any of our top prospects for a relief pitcher even one as good as Chapman. The difference between Jansen and Chapman may translate to 2 games in an entire year and Chapman is expensive and under team control for only 1 year after this one.

    You never know how good a prospect will be but I have heard Renaldo Lopez in the same sentence as Pedro Martinez and I love what I have seen from Joe Ross and we all know how good Giolito could be, just say no. Offer them Cole + Voth and stop there.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      I’m with you JD. I’ve felt that Cole is who I would trade and that’s probably too much and then some much lesser Minor Leaguers. In all seriousness I would do Gio for Chapman straight up and put Roark back in the rotation.

      The good news is you QO after next season and get a top prospect back when Chapman goes to Free Agency.

      • jd - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:24 PM

        Ghost,

        There’s a couple of problems with trading Gio. He’s the only lefty in the rotation and there’s a few teams that are very left handed and also if we lose both Fister and JZim to free agency you are now counting on someone like Ross to step into the rotation, I don’t know.

        I know Gio has been infuriating much of the time but he has also looked very good at other times. As a 5th starter I think he’s ok.

      • virginiascopist - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:37 PM

        I’m in the “I don’t think we need Chapman” camp. It’s easy to rush to judgment on bullpen deficiencies. Just because last year Kansas City made it to the World Series with their great bullpen while Detroit got swept in the first round due to their lousy bullpen doesn’t mean that, ergo, you must have a fantastic bullpen to succeed in the post-season.

        That said, I seriously doubt Chapman will be dealt before the ASB. Assuming our rotation stays healthy and Roark can adequately fill Stammen’s role, I think we will see a more than adequate pen. If not, and Rizzo decides Chapman is the way to go, I think he will offer Cole.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 4:07 PM

        All depends on what it costs. I still think Joe Cool could be the answer for the bullpen in September so who knows.

      • rlndtln - Jun 17, 2015 at 6:06 PM

        What good is the lefty if he can not throw strikes.Gio for Chapman is a great deal for the Nats but the Reds would prefer Prospects they can control for years.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2015 at 6:13 PM

        You’re correct but if they trade Cue to they’d have Gio right away.

  12. natfan33 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    I know this is nit-picking, but he gives up two singles after the error. Can he ever shut a team down after a teammate makes an error? Pick them up Stras!

    • jd - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:04 PM

      natfan33,

      I don’t really care so much about the results. I like that he had lots of strike outs and ground balls. Stras’s main problem has always been giving up lots of line drives. If he’s healthy he’l be fine.

      • nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        He had some line drives to.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:27 PM

        I think natfan33’s comment was satirical

  13. nats128 - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    Span and Ramos are both out of the lineup.

  14. jd - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    Not surprised. We need the real JZimm tonight.

    • ArVAFan - Jun 17, 2015 at 3:32 PM

      Lobaton can call a good game (duh). Let’s hope this is one of them.

      • rlndtln - Jun 17, 2015 at 6:07 PM

        Zim in past years would be a lock tonite

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