(Tom Uhlman/Associated Press)

As he recovers from a Grade 1 lat strain in his lower back, Stephen Strasburg played catch for the second consecutive day this afternoon. He could still make his next start Saturday against the Twins, depending on how he responds to a bullpen session scheduled for tomorrow.

Strasburg exited his start Friday after two innings when he aggravated the right lat muscle, which had felt tight for several previous starts. The Nationals have not committed Strasburg to the Saturday start, but he remains on track.

“I can’t really count the chickens before they hatch,” Strasburg said. “I just got to take it day by day and just how it feels. It’s going in the right direction. That’s the big thing.”

The Nationals officially moved Gio Gonzalez’s next start to Thursday, the day Strasburg would normally have pitched. But because of an off day Monday, Gonzalez will still pitch on regular rest. The Nationals would need Strasburg – or another starter – to pitch Saturday in order to prevent any starters from pitching on short rest.

“We just went a little old-school on him,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “With the off day, I can put him on the back of the list. The report I got him on from Monday from [pitching coach Steve McCatty] is that he was feeling a lot better. If he could throw a ‘pen tomorrow, he would be available to start” Saturday.

Strasburg, the Nationals’ ace, is 3-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 12 starts.

One MLB medical official said Sunday that most lat strains typically take three to six weeks to come back from. Strasburg chafed at that timetable because the official had not examined him. He planned to take his recovery from the injury slowly, but he did not think it would take that long to pitch again.

Strasburg played catch this afternoon for the second straight day. Yesterday, “I went out to about 120 [feet] yesterday, not short-arming by any means,” Strasburg said. “Just doing a normal program.”

Strasburg said the session of catch was not necessarily a good test for the lat strain. He had not felt tightness in the lat muscle except when throwing a pitch at full effort.

“We’ll wait and see what it feels like off the mound,” Strasburg said. “That’s the big thing. I’m getting treatment. They’re saying that it’s getting better every day.

“I’m just taking it day by day. I’m not trying to rush it. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

The Nationals already have one starter on the disabled list in left-hander Ross Detwiler, who is contending with a strained right oblique. Johnson said Detwiler could pitch off a mound, possibly in a simulated game, in four days and could return to the rotation in nine days.

Rookie right-hander Nate Karns has made the last two starts in place of Detwiler. He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA and nine strikeouts over nine innings.