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Posted at 06:32 PM ET, 08/17/2011

Johnson speculates on Strasburg return

Nationals Manager Davey Johnson today outlined a speculative plan that would have Stephen Strasburg joining the Nationals as soon as Sept. 2 to make his first major league start since Tommy John surgery – one day before the one-year anniversary of Strasburg’s ligament-replacement procedure.

Johnson was not speaking definitively, so don’t place any bets or buying any tickets based on Strasburg pitching Sept. 2. Johnson had not even discussed that date with General Manager Mike Rizzo. But he did have his own rationale.

Johnson started by considering Jordan Zimmermann’s total innings so far. Zimmermann has pitched 145 innings, placing him 15 innings away from his 160-inning limit for his first full season following his Tommy John surgery. By Johnson’s calculations, Zimmermann will probably make three more starts, the last one coming on Aug. 28.

Strasburg will make his third minor league start tonight in Hagerstown, with Strasburg expected to throw another three innings. Johnson said Strasburg could potentially pitch in the majors after making his start today and then two additional minor league rehab starts, giving him five total.

If Strasburg continues to pitch every five days, he would make his next three rehab starts Aug. 22 and Aug. 27. If he made his 2011 major league debut Sept. 2, Strasburg could seamlessly take Zimmermann’s spot in the rotation while receiving one extra day of rest before the big day.

“Since he was starting today, I thought maybe I’d see if they were lined up,” Johnson said. “He’s basically one day ahead of Jordan.”

Now, we barely even have to run down the various caveats. All of this presupposes a perfectly smooth rehab process for Strasburg. Even if that happens, Rizzo and the rest of the Nationals’ front office may want to use the full minor league season to their advantage and give Strasburg one last start before it ends Sept. 5.

Also, Johnson had been working under the presumption that Strasburg would up his workload tonight to four innings. But reporters in Hagerstown have been informed that Strasburg is slated for three innings tonight.

I would still guess the Nationals will give Strasburg as much time in the minors as they can and we’ll see Strasburg some time during their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at home from Sept. 5 through Sept. 8, most likely on the 6th or 7th. For right now, though, we’re all just waiting and guessing. Even Johnson.

By  |  06:32 PM ET, 08/17/2011

 
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