(Greg Fiume / Getty Images)

When Dan Haren went on the disabled list last week, he was open in his belief that he was not all that injured. He would have preferred to keep pitching, he said, but he followed the Nationals’ orders and got an MRI and a cortisone shot.

And so Haren was surprised Sunday morning after he threw his first bullpen session since going on the DL. The rest and cortisone shot had made more an impact than he imagined it would. Before, it took “maximum effort” to get the ball to the plate, he said. Sunday, Haren threw easily.

Haren still would not use his right shoulder inflammation as an excuse for his 6.15 ERA or league-high 19 homers allowed in 15 starts. But he was hopeful his trip to the DL had a positive effect.

“When I went on the DL, it really wasn’t that bad of a thing,” Haren said. “I think it was more precautionary on their side, giving me time to get 100 percent. But I definitely feel the difference. I don’t know if it’s the time off or getting the shot or a combination of both. But it feels good coming out. I don’t know if I’ll come back throwing 95, but maybe it’ll feel a little better coming out, be a little more crisp.”

Haren will throw a simulated game Wednesday, which would put him on track to start in a game July 8, the first day he is eligible, or shortly thereafter. Haren plans to return to the Nationals’ rotation without pitching in a minor league rehab start.

“I did that last year,” Haren said. “I did not like that. I don’t like those. It’s hard to get your adrenaline going, and then they’re super-aggressive off pitching. The guy would, first pitch of the game, swing. So it’s hard to work on anything because they’re just so aggressive. But I think a sim game, facing live hitters at the field, that would work.”

The Nationals would benefit from a quick return from Haren. Last year, Haren posted a 3.58 ERA in 13 starts after coming back from the first disabled list stint of his career. If the rest can make him an effective starter, it would stabilize the back of the rotation. If he’s the same pitcher he has been all year, the Nationals would at least know it with plenty of time to spare before the July 31 trade deadline.