After throwing nearly 50 pitches over three innings in what appears to be his last simulated game in Viera, Fla. on Tuesday, the Nationals remain mum on when Stephen Strasburg will make his first minor league rehab start since Tommy John surgery last September.
Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said before Tuesday’s game that he has only heard tentative dates for a possible start for Strasburg, 23. Johnson said he had not heard anything yet about Strasburg’s simulated on Tuesday but he noted that wasn’t necessarily a bad sign either. “I’m sure if there was any blimp on the radar I’d be the first one to hear it,” he said.
Strasburg’s start would come either at Class A Hagerstown or Class A Potomac, most likely Hagerstown. Johnson indicated on Monday that it would come during a home game for the Nationals’ affiliate. Hagerstown will be at home Aug. 7 and 8 before leaving on a road trip, and Potomac will begin a seven-day homestand Aug. 8.
“I’ve heard tentative dates,” Johnson said. “But I mean, you know, those things could vary. The weather could vary. Of course, he could still throw under a shed down there. But I think they’re wanting mostly his outings, they want him throwing to hitters. But if everything goes according to schedule he may be able to go start a game and get two or three innings around the 7th or the 10th [of the month].”
Another Nationals player has also been advancing towards a return. After suffering setback during batting practice in Houston nearly two weeks ago, catcher Ivan Rodriguez may soon take another step towards overcoming a strained oblique that landed him on the disabled list in early July.
Johnson said Rodriguez was ready to test out his body again. Once they all consult with Nationals trainer Lee Kuntz, they could decide to keep Rodriguez in Miami at home rehabbing and receiving physical therapy. But Johnson also suggested that one plan was to have the 19-year veteran return to Washington on Wednesday, possibly having him take batting practice or be evaluated by team trainers. And if that goes well, Rodriguez, 39, could be sent to the minor leagues for a chance to get some at-bats.
Catching and throwing haven’t been a problem for Rodriguez, who continues to do those without any issue, Johnson said. But it is the swinging motion that still hurts Rodriguez, who last played on July 6. Johnson said he spoke with Rodriguez on Monday and characterized the catcher’s pain as a “four” on a scale of one for pain-free to ten for painful. “It’s a lot better because it used to be a six or seven,” Johnson said. “It still bothers him a little bit when he swings.”