Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg took a solid step forward in his recovery from a right elbow nerve impingement with a smooth bullpen session on Saturday, according to general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo.
Right-hander Erick Fedde will be called up Sunday to make his major league debut as Strasburg takes at least one start off.
“He threw a bullpen today and came through it very well,” Rizzo said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and feel it from there.”
Rizzo said one reason he is confident Fedde was ready for this next step was his ability to get Triple-A hitters out within the strike zone.
“He’s been a guy who progressed very quickly after Tommy John surgery,” Rizzo noted. “With the protocol we went through this year, we kind of shortened him up to save some innings for the back end of the season.
“I think since he’s been stretched out and gotten more comfortable at the Triple-A level, we feel he’s able to get guys out now in the strike zone, which was something we wanted him to do. That’s the reason we sent him to Triple-A. In Double-A, he was getting guys out outside the strike zone, and in Triple A, he was able to make that adjustment.”
With the trade deadline approaching, there has been some speculation because of the season ending injury to Joe Ross and the recent DL stop for Strasburg that the club is still in search of starting rotation depth in a trade.
One baseball source told me that a Sonny Gray or a Yu Darvish may not be the high level of starter the Nats are looking to acquire. Maybe a middle tier starter might be more the level they are seeking. And taking it one step further, that type of starter might be found after the July 31 trade deadline anyway.
Rizzo said he has confidence in the club’s organizational depth as well to employ if they need another starter down the road.
“We’re comfortable with what we have,” Rizzo said. “We like what we’ve got. We think we have four quality starters that can match up with anybody, and (Edwin) Jackson, Fedde, (A.J.) Cole, (Austin) Voth and that group, I think we feel good about our depth.”
Jayson Werth participated in outdoor batting practice before Saturday’s game against the Rockies and had some quality swings, including a batting practice home run over the left field wall. Manager Dusty Baker said the veteran still needs to be able to throw and run to get back on the field. Baker said they did not realize the left foot contusion was as bad as it was until the decreased swelling revealed a bigger problem in the big toe.
“It showed once the swelling got out of there and everything that it was fractured,” Baker said. “So, you got to give him time to heal. I’m sure he rushed it some to given some clearance. But how do you know? We are all capable of not knowing. Everybody heals differently.
“Jayson’s going to Florida with us. He’s swinging fine, didn’t hurt him to hit. But to throw and to run, you got to get up on that big toe. That’s a different story, especially the running part. This is an area that you take for granted. You never think about big toe,” Baker added.
Baker offered a different viewpoint on the upcoming trade deadline from inside the clubhouse and what he sees players go through this time of the season.
“The front office comes to me on everything but a lot of times they don’t come to me unless it’s getting relatively close because there’s a lot of things going on and I still got a job to do to manage,” Baker said. “This is a very tough time of year. It’s tough on those that feel that they might get traded or don’t want to be traded.
“And it is a good time of the year that those that are looking to get traded and looking to go to a contending team. You look to guys like (Sean) Doolittle or some of these guys traded to a first division team they picked up 30 games in the standings. They’re very happy other than having to relocate or move their families. It’s tougher on the families than it is on us.”