Stephen Strasburg threw a side session without issue this afternoon, which allowed the Nationals to finalize the date of his first minor league rehab start in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Strasburg will start Sunday at Class A Hagerstown, the most significant milestone yet as he nears a return to the major leagues. First pitch is 4:05 p.m.
Strasburg’s start will surely draw a buzz unprecedented in Hagerstown, even when 2010 first overall draft pick Bryce Harper played there for the first two months of the season. Strasburg’s return has been the most anticipated event of the Nationals’ season, one year after Strasburg, as a rookie, struck out 92 batters, walked 17 and compiled a 2.91 ERA in 12 major league starts.
Over the past month, Strasburg has impressed Nationals officials while throwing simulated games at their spring training facility in Viera, Fla. He has reached at least 95 miles per hour with his fastball and has thrown both his changeup and curveball with regularity and without issue.
The Nationals will exercise caution with Strasburg, but if all goes well he should return to the majors in early September. The minor league seasons for all of the Nationals affiliates end Sept. 5, so his progression in the minors will only last about a month.
Last year, when Jordan Zimmermann went through the same final stage of Tommy John rehab before returning to the majors, he made 10 minor league starts, a process that lasted from early June to late August. In his first start, Zimmermann threw three innings at Class A Potomac.