Martinez on Hellickson, Kintzler, Strasburg and more

Nationals hurlers Jeremy Hellickson and Brandon Kintzler completed their rehab games today for high Single-A Potomac with polar-opposite line results in an 11-5 loss to Wilmington.

Hellickson has been nursing a right hamstring strain since June 4, while Kintzler is returning from a right forearm flexor strain (June 10).

Hellickson lasted 4 2/3 innings in Woodbridge, Va., Sunday, giving up 11 runs on nine hits with three walks in taking the loss. Hellickson threw a scoreless first inning, but then the Blue Rocks connected for 11 runs in the next four frames. He allowed two homers, including a grand slam to Wilmington catcher Meibrys Viloria, and finished with 83 pitches, 50 for strikes.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez wasn’t as much concerned with the number of runs Hellickson allowed as he was that Hellickson threw 83 pitches without getting through the fifth inning.

“I am more concerned about the way he feels, and we’ll go from there,” Martinez said of Hellickson’s start.

Kintzler, meanwhile, threw a shutout sixth inning, allowing no hits with one strikeout.

“Kintzler actually felt really good. We are going to wait for them to come back and talk to them and see what their thoughts were.”

Strasburg-Throws-Red-Beard-Sidebar.jpgMartinez had some positive news regarding starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation, June 10), who could be seen coming into the clubhouse after a routine workout.

“He is progressing and he’s doing well,” Martinez said. “So, he’ll keep doing his throwing progression and we will figure out when he can actually throw from the mound.”

First baseman Matt Adams (fractured left index finger) and catcher Matt Wieters also made their way through the clubhouse following outdoor workouts. Both were seen running full out in the outfield. Martinez said that’s the most important part of Wieters’ return to the lineup.

“The key for Wieters is the running,” Martinez said. “He is strengthening every day. He’s doing all baseball activity, he caught bullpen, he threw, so now it’s just the running portion of it. He’s been hitting very light but he’s been swinging the bat.

“For Adams, it’s just staying in shape. It’s his index finger, so as soon as we can get the swelling out of there, and the bruising, he’ll start swinging the bat.”

As was reported yesterday, the plan is for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain, May 10) to go on a seven-day rehab assignment. Zimmerman has missed 37 games. Martinez said seven days sounds about right for now. After tonight’s game, the club heads out to St. Petersburg, Fla., to take on the Tampa Bay Rays, and then on to Philadelphia. Maybe after that, Zimmerman could go on a rehab assignment.

“Around that time frame,” Martinez said. “He’s actually doing well, progressing very well. We want to make sure this time that he is ready and there’s not going to be any setbacks.”

Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera and Shawn Kelley pitched in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Phillies. Martinez assessed the status for the relievers heading into tonight’s matchup: “They always go out every day and throw. After they throw I will sit down with them and we’ll go over the game plan and see where they are at. For the most part they had the day off yesterday, so they should be pretty good, but we’ll see where Matt (Grace) and (Kelvin) Herrera are.”

Grace tossed two innings Friday, allowing two runs in the 12-2 setback. Today in the clubhouse he displayed the clean-shaven look, but said it wasn’t because he was looking for a new beginning. He told me the shaver head popped off as he was trying to trim his beard, which messed up his intentions. So to fix it, he shaved off his entire beard and mustache.

* Tonight’s starter, right-hander Jefrey Rodriguez, allowed four runs in a no-decision June 19 against the Orioles, his first major league start. The 6-foot-6 hurler relied heavily on his fastballs and curveball, but did not employ his changeup, which played well in the minor leagues. Martinez said the young starter is working on building confidence in the off-speed offering at the major league level.

“He definitely feels comfortable throwing his curveball and fastball,” Martinez said. “He’s not very comfortable throwing his changeup, but his last bullpen he went out and worked on it, and it was a lot better. So if he could throw it - you don’t have to throw it a bunch - but if you could throw it, it’s just another pitch hitters got to worry about.”

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