Strasburg and Giolito both preparing to start Sunday

The Nationals still haven’t decided if Stephen Strasburg will return from the disabled list this weekend, but Dusty Baker seems to prefer taking the cautious route with his rehabbing right-hander.

Strasburg, who is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, continues to prepare as though he may start Sunday’s series finale against the Reds. Rookie Lucas Giolito, though, also is preparing for the same assignment, with the club holding off for now choosing between the two.

Both Strasburg and Giolito threw off the bullpen mound this afternoon, typical preparation for a start in the next two or three days. Baker didn’t rule out the possibility of Strasburg returning from his strained upper back in time for Sunday’s game, but it didn’t sound like he’s particularly optimistic of that happening.

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“I mean, I’m not,” Baker said. “But it’s not only my decision. I’m not pessimistic about it. But at this point, we’ve still halfway to go (in the season). So I’m more inclined not to rush him. Because he’s still got to get his endurance up, he’s still got to run, he still has to do a pen. You don’t just go back out there and pitch if you haven’t been out there in a while. I’m not in a hurry, personally.”

Strasburg last pitched June 15 against the Cubs. Since then he twice has been scratched with the upper back strain that was a byproduct of a weight training injury that popped two of his upper ribs out of place.

Giolito, who impressed in his rain-shortened, major league debut Tuesday night against the Mets, is proceeding as though he’ll again take Strasburg’s turn in the rotation, even though he hasn’t been told he will actually pitch.

That might seem like a tough spot for a 21-year-old, not knowing for sure when and where he’ll next pitch, but Baker looks at it in an entirely different manner.

“I think that’s a pretty good spot,” the manager said. “He could be down there in Triple-A knowing where he is. I saw Giolito and I just told him: ‘Man, you look mighty happy these days.’ And he is. So that ain’t a tough spot at all. You’ve seen some of these guys’ (dinner) plates in there? They have good food in the minor leagues, but they serve excellent food here. So yeah, he’s all smiles.”

Giolito, who admittedly has been enjoying his time in the big leagues since debuting Tuesday night, said he’ll continue preparing to start on schedule Sunday until told otherwise.

“I just stick to my routine, do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “Like, I’m throwing a pen today, and then get my running, lifting and stuff. I don’t really think about it. I just do what I’m supposed to do.”

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