Gio Gonzalez throws a simulated game (UPDATED)

Gio Gonzalez on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Gio Gonzalez on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Gio Gonzalez took another step toward returning to the Nationals‘ starting rotation by throwing a simulated game Sunday morning. Gonzalez, who has been on the disabled list with an inflamed left shoulder since May 18, was scheduled to throw 50 pitches. He faced teammates Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore, Jose Lobaton and Greg Dobbs. He took two breaks during his session, simulating three innings in a game.

Manager Matt Williams, General Manager Mike Rizzo and trainer Lee Kuntz watched from behind the batting cage, and pitching coach Steve McCatty monitored Gonzalez from behind the screen on the mound.

“Gio’s good,” Williams said after Sunday’s game. “After the session [Sunday], he reported that he felt great. So we’ll look to a rehab start in the coming days. But he came out of it great.”

Gonzalez threw with the same apparent force as normal. In the second and third simulated innings, Gonzalez did better at keeping the ball down in the strike zone. After the session, Gonzalez walked into the clubhouse with Kuntz and his  teammates. Moore said Gonzalez didn’t look like a pitcher who had been out of game action for two weeks.

“His [velocity] was up,” Moore said. “His curveball was sharp. Change-up was good. Throwing strikes when he needed to. He was trying to work on his curveball for a strike, so he did it a few times. I think he looked good. Tough at-bat for sure.”

Assuming Gonzalez suffers no setbacks, the left-hander is scheduled to pitch five or six innings in a rehab game this week, likely in five days. On that schedule, Gonzalez would be on pace to make his return from the disabled list June 11 in San Francisco against the Giants.

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