Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. Without him, the Nationals’ starting rotation has posted the worst ERA in the National League after tallying the best mark in the NL until he exited with his injury on June 8.
The right-hander has made two rehab starts with Class A Potomac in the past week. On July 10, he allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings. He then threw 82 pitches and allowed three unearned runs across 5 2/3 innings on Sunday.
After Strasburg, Martinez said Gio Gonzalez is tentatively scheduled to start Saturday. Max Scherzer, the NL all-star team’s starting pitcher Tuesday, will pitch in the series finale on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman, who a year ago was playing in the All-Star Game, was instead playing in his second rehab game with Potomac on Tuesday. The assignment began on Monday, when he went 2 for 2 with a walk, a double, and an error at first base. On Tuesday, Zimmerman, who is returning from oblique and hamstring injuries, hit a home run in his first at-bat. He hasn’t played in a game for Washington since May 9.
The Nationals will have a difficult decision to make to create the roster spot for Zimmerman. His presence will make Mark Reynolds — another right-handed-hitting first baseman — somewhat redundant, but he is batting .291 with a .934 OPS and 10 home runs in 133 plate appearances. He drove in 10 runs in one game. His hot streaks have carried the Nationals’ offense. Zimmerman has a track record of success — he was, again, an all-star last season — but he was batting .217 with a .689 OPS and five home runs before landing on the DL. Still, he’ll likely replace Reynolds in Washington’s first-base platoon with Matt Adams.
As for Sean Doolittle, Washington’s current all-star on the DL, the closer isn’t expected to return Friday, though he said he is progressing. The closer threw from 90 feet on flat ground on Monday without any discomfort in his left foot a week after a pinched nerve between his big and second toes forced him to go on the DL.
“I don’t even know what tomorrow holds,” Doolittle said. “But yesterday was really good and so far today it feels good too . . . We’re really moving in that direction.”