Stephen Strasburg will make his second minor league start Friday at Class A Potomac, the team announced this afternoon following Strasburg’s issue-free side throwing session. Strasburg will throw either three innings or 50 pitches, whichever comes first, building on his 1 2/3-inning, 31-pitch outing Sunday at Class A Hagerstown.
In Strasburg’s final stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery, the Nationals remain concerned only about Strasburg’s condition, not his results. There is nothing different, aside from a handful more pitches, that they will look for in Friday’s start compared to last Sunday’s.
“We’re just looking for him to build up arm strength, build up stamina,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “We will monitor the recovery. That’s what this is all about.”
In determining where Strasburg makes rehab starts, the Nationals’ only priority is location. “The most important thing is the team’s at home,” Rizzo said. “Because we need to control the environment, and we have that capability when we’re at home.”
The Nationals plan to keep Strasburg on an every-fifth-day schedule, which means after Friday, his next start would come Aug. 17, when only Class AAA Syracuse and Class A Hagerstown are home among affiliates. If Strasburg moves back to Hagerstown for that start, “don’t read anything into it,” Rizzo said. “That’s definite.”
The Nationals will increase Strasburg’s workload with every rehab start. In the start following Friday’s, Manager Davey Johnson said, Strasburg will pitch four innings and 60 pitches.
With his first start, Strasburg showed how far he has come in the 11 months since he had Tommy John surgery. He struck out four batters and hit 98 mph with his fastball, his arm having virtually recaptured the potential to create same brilliance as his rookie season.
“I am not surprised,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “Anything he does, does not surprise me. Really, I'm not. I've watched him from spring training. If I didn't know what had gone on I'd have never of guessed that there was anything wrong. I'm not surprised at all.”
The Nationals have explained to Strasburg he should not concern himself with the results from his rehab starts – “these numbers aren’t going on the back of your baseball card,” Rizzo said. Strasburg, though, is intensely competitive, and McCatty sensed Strasburg’s annoyance at allowing a home run in his first rehab start.“I’m sure he was [angry],” McCatty said. “The surface of the water might look glassy smooth, but underneath is a big undercurrent going with that guy. I just get a kick out of him, because I enjoy teasing him to death. I feel like I'm talking about a guy who's in the Hall of Fame. It's just, for me, my perspective, anything he does, does not surprise me. This or anything he's going to do. I don't think there's any surprises with him. Especially if he does well.”