Strasburg return would change a lot for the Nationals

The Nationals need their leader back.

Injuries hit the Nationals pretty hard this season. Bryce Harper being out has made it difficult for the offense to look scary. Every opposing pitcher has to contend with how to pitch Harper or pitch around him. Several times when others were not rolling, Harper was the igniter for the offense. His homer when others can't even connect on a base hit made all the difference to altering the momentum of a game and giving the Nationals a chance.

Stephen Strasburg has that effect on the pitching staff. Having him in the starting rotation is like seeing LeBron James check in for the Miami Heat. You know if you face him, it will take your best effort even to just hang in there.

He is not the rah-rah, yell and scream type of leader. Strasburg is more the lead-by-example type. His teammates see how hard he works, how badly he wants this. And when Strasburg is on, I mean really on his game, there is no one who has his kind of stuff.

Erasing all the argument over his health, the bottom line is when Strasburg is in, the Nationals have a different presentation, a different attitude and undeniable feeling that they will find a way to win.

Strasburg looked ready to go Sunday as he calmly walked in from right field during the pregame workouts prior to Game One against the Twins.

His neck was red and sweat rolled down his arms after another particularly intense workout. But there was not holding back. Strasburg was working hard out there with no limitations. He had be had been throwing well and he had looked good running. That was the best sign to see in a while.

His tender lat in his back had been carefully administered to since May 31 when he was pulled after two innings in Atlanta, noticeably uncomfortable after a few of the batters he had faced.

Manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg would throw a simulated game Tuesday in Denver prior to the Nationals opening of a three-game set against the Rockies.

In his last 10 games, Strasburg has gone 2-4 with a 2.18 ERA, firing 65 strikeouts and allowing 17 walks. Five of those outings have gone seven innings or longer. Twice, against San Diego and Philadelphia, he has gone eight innings, and that has occurred in two of his last four starts.

The Nationals desperately needed to win their series against the Twins.

Now they embark on a nine-game road trip where they can get their big name picture back on the mound, June 16 against the Indians.

It would do a lot for this team to have their leader back pitching and setting the tone.

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