“I can’t answer that question as of today,” Rizzo said before Washington’s 14-4 loss to the Diamondbacks Monday. “I may be able to answer it a little clearer tomorrow to see where he’s at after today and into tomorrow. As the days click on and he hasn’t thrown to hitters yet then it gets further away from him getting on the mound. But we’ll assess today and have more information for you tomorrow.”
Strasburg strained the flexor mass in his right elbow Sept. 7 and didn’t throw again until playing light catch for a few minutes at Turner Field in Atlanta 10 days later. He remained limited to flat-ground throwing sessions over the next 10 days and has 10 days to demonstrate he warrants occupying a roster spot against the Dodgers. That seems unlikely, meaning the Nationals will probably have to depend on Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross behind Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark.
Roark had one of his worst starts of the season Monday, allowing five runs across four innings – all in the fourth inning. Scherzer is slated to pitch Tuesday, followed by Gonzalez and Ross to complete the four-game series against the Diamondbacks. Based on that rotation, A.J. Cole, Roark and Scherzer would start the final three games of the regular season against the Marlins.
The Nationals initially feared Ross might not come off the disabled list in time to start in the postseason when his first rehab assignment was cut short in early August, but they’re now confident he returned in time to prepare for the role – all the more important after Strasburg’s injury. Thursday will be Ross’s third start since coming off the disabled list and his final chance to build up stamina in a game setting for the playoffs. The right-hander threw 51 pitches over three innings in his first start back and 63 in 2 2/3 frames in his second.
“We’re trying to [ramp] up Joe’s pitches and keep a close eye on him,” Baker said. “That’s who we ask how he feels, because we can’t have Joe go backwards and then probably not have Joe at all. He’s looked pretty good, though. We’re going to try to ramp him up. I was talking to [Scherzer] about it, and he said it’s important that you get to a certain point where maybe he can pitch six innings or six and a fraction, which is really about all you need for a quality start anyway. I’ll take that.”
Ross would likely start either Game 3 or 4. Game 3 is slated for Oct. 10. Game 4, if necessary, would be played the next day. Pitching Scherzer, presumably Washington’s Game 1 starter, on short rest in Game 4 is a possibility, but Baker said he hasn’t discussed the scenario with him yet.