Jeremy Hellickson fielded groundballs, covered the bases and greenlighted himself to return from the disabled list Monday afternoon, but that doesn’t mean he necessarily will immediately.
“That was kind of the last step of everything,” he said, “just kind of seeing if I could cover first or field a bunt, which I felt fine doing.”
Hellickson doesn’t believe he needs a rehab start before returning — “It hasn’t been that long since I’ve been off, I don’t really need to build arm strength,” he said Monday — but he won’t make the final call. The cautious Washington front office has slowed down hurlers hurtling through rehab in the past, and it might opt to do so again.
Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said Hellickson “wanted to face some hitters” Tuesday, but stopped short of saying he actually would — though it seems likely. Should Hellickson throw with a person in the box, Martinez clarified which types of hitters those would be.
“Sim game. Sim game. Sim game,” he said.
Hellickson won’t start in his normal rotation slot Tuesday, and the next time the Nationals will need a fifth starter is on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Hellickson has been on the disabled list since June 5, after he strained his right hamstring jumping while covering first base two days earlier in the first inning against Atlanta. The 31-year-old right-hander did not travel with the team to New York last week for its series against the Yankees. Erick Fedde was called up to start in his place, the right-hander’s fifth career start in the big leagues.
The Nationals have missed Hellickson, who was enjoying of one of the best starting stretches of his career before the injury, compiling a 2.28 ERA in 43 1/3 innings across nine starts. It was a resurgence from a season ago, when he compiled a 5.43 ERA in 164 innings with Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Hellickson threw bullpens Thursday and Sunday, and he said pitching felt fine and that his movement off the mound was his last hesitation before returning.
“Besides the two or three days after I did it, [pitching has] felt great,” he said. “I knew, just pulling it really bad before, I knew it wasn’t going to be a long rehab. Today was, like I said, probably the last step feeling good today.
“We’ll see what happens.”
Fedde is scheduled to start Monday night’s second game. Washington has yet to name a starter for Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game against Baltimore.
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