Stephen Strasburg said the results of his most recent rehab outing don’t matter. Most players say statistics don’t carry much weight in games like those, whether they’re good or bad. Strasburg dismissed the importance of the 11 strikeouts he compiled in 5 2/3 innings for Class AAA Syracuse Monday night, but as Manager Matt Williams said:
“When you have 11 strikeouts, you’re doing something right.”
From Williams’s perspective, the number indicates command. As Strasburg battled injury and mechanical trouble earlier this season, he maintained control — not walking tons of batters, not losing the zone. But command evaporated, strikes on the black fringes of the plate caught too much white. Solid contact followed more often than Strasburg is used to. Monday, as in the three outings he pitched before hitting the disabled list with a strained oblique July 4, Strasburg had it, Williams said.
“I think last night’s an indication of him feeling good physically. Last night’s an indication of him being able to throw all his pitches for strikes when he wants to. He threw good curveball last night, good feel for the change-up.”
But the strikeouts and the 85 strong pitches used to record them do matter because they signal Strasburg is healthy, no longer bothered by any of the back, neck, or more recently core trouble that plagued him all year.
“I feel good,” Strasburg said. “Stuff’s there. It’s just trying to keep doing the same things and keep working at all the stuff I’ve been doing. So going in the right direction.”
Last week, Williams said he thought Strasburg would be ready to return to the rotation after Monday’s outing. Tuesday, he said Strasburg will throw a bullpen session Wednesday and assess further after that. If all goes well, Strasburg would be on five days’ rest Saturday against the Rockies. Strasburg spent most of June and July on the disabled list, and has battled discomfort all year.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to be happy with [being on the disabled list], but you got to just try to look at the positives,” Strasburg said. “I think I’ve grown a lot from it. I’m going to try to continue to do that.”
When Strasburg returns, the Nationals will have to find room in their rotation. Doug Fister, who has struggled all season, is on turn to pitch Saturday, so either he or Strasburg will likely be given extra rest to make room. Rookie Joe Ross would seem likely to depart, though he has thrown quality starts in five of his first six major league outings. Wherever he fits back in, Strasburg will help.
“That’s my job,” Strasburg said. “I want to go out there and help this team win some games.”
>>>>> David Carpenter progressing through throwing program
Right-handed reliever David Carpenter resumed his throwing program this week and is therefore progressing toward a return. He threw on flat ground Tuesday afternoon from as far as 150 feet or so, a distance he reached Monday, too. That he is throwing at all is a relief.
When Carpenter first felt discomfort in his right shoulder, in Baltimore just before the all-star break, he received a scary initial diagnosis — one he refused to disclose, sticking to the “right shoulder inflammation” story given when he was placed on the disabled list. He ended up getting three different opinions, the second and third of which provided far more optimism than the first.
“Basically, we got one from the team doc that floored all of us,” said Carpenter, who chose not to elaborate on specifics. “Then we went to get second and third opinions from Dr. Craig Morgan in Delaware and Dr. [Timothy] Kremcheck in Cincinnati, and they basically said the shoulder strength and everything is good. If you’re not having any pain, go throw.”
Carpenter said the process was “frustrating,” but that he is eager to “get back on the field and start having fun again.” He said everything felt good Tuesday. He’ll continue to progress through the program, eventually moving from flat ground to a mound, bullpen sessions and beyond.