Stephen Strasburg threw 57 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday at Nationals Park. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

When the Nationals placed Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list with a right elbow impingement on July 27, Manager Dusty Baker said he would need to throw an “intense” bullpen session before returning. Essentially, a simulated game. Because Baker insisted Strasburg would miss just one start, the expectation was Strasburg would check that box quickly. But Strasburg didn’t miss just one start; he’s missed two, and his return date remains unknown.

Strasburg, however, took a significant step Wednesday afternoon, when he threw that simulated game Baker said was required. The right-hander faced Jayson Werth and Andrew Stevenson — a right-handed hitter and left-handed hitter for both looks. He went to the dugout after each of the four half-innings to simulate a game’s flow — at least as closely as one can in an empty ballpark with a cage as the backdrop.

With Max Scherzer, Matt Wieters and members of the training and coaching staffs among those watching, Strasburg threw 57 pitches. He threw everything in his arsenal. He said he “felt really good.”

“I’m definitely happy with it,” Strasburg, who threw standard bullpens last Friday and Sunday, said. “Just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Strasburg, 29, said his next step is “probably a rehab game somewhere.” If he were to go on five days’ rest, he’d make a rehab game start Monday. The only Nationals affiliate scheduled to play Monday is Class A Potomac. The P-Nats are home against Salem. If one rehab appearance is enough, Strasburg would then be in line to make his 21st start on Aug. 19 against the Padres in San Diego, his home town.

“Stras looked good,” said Werth, who had never faced Strasburg. “I don’t know exactly what we were dealing with, but he had command of all his pitches. He looked well-rested actually. He had good life on his fastball. … I think he’s going to be fine.”

Howie Kendrick is back in the Nationals’ lineup Wednesday after exiting Monday’s win over the Marlins with back stiffness. He was already scheduled not to play Tuesday, but Wednesday had been in question. Daniel Murphy, however, isn’t starting for Washington. The all-star second baseman wasn’t in Tuesday’s starting lineup because of a sore hip, though he pinch-hit in the ninth inning. On Wednesday, he took groundballs and participated in batting practice.

“Decided to wait another day and he should be okay,” Baker said. “Hopefully tomorrow.”

A buttocks strain limited Murphy to pinch-hitting duties over the final 15 games of the regular season last year, an episode Baker said is informing his handling of Murphy with a 13-game lead in the National League East.

“He’s the kind of player you kind of dream about,” Baker said. “He’s not going to come up to you about it. You’re going to have to recognize the signs and then when you go to him then you can sort of tell and he’ll say, ‘Well, I’m not going to ask out, but it’s up to you.’ And then I’m like okay. And plus we don’t want it to get to the point where it was last year where we missed Murph for two weeks or longer. … So we got try to head that off.”

MARLINS (53-58)
Dee Gordon 2B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Marcell Ozuna LF
J.T. Realmuto C
Derek Dietrich 3B
Tyler Moore 1B
Ichiro Suzuki CF
Miguel Rojas SS
Adam Conley LHP

Brian Goodwin CF
Adrian Sanchez 2B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Wieters C
Howie Kendrick LF
Wilmer Difo SS
Gio Gonzalez LHP

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