Rehab program likely leaves Strasburg return two weeks away

CHICAGO - Stephen Strasburg is ramping up his throwing program, but the right-hander still appears to be at least two weeks away from rejoining the Nationals rotation.

Thumbnail image for Strasburg grey.jpgStrasburg, who has made only one start since June 8 due to shoulder and neck ailments, is slated to throw a “heavy” bullpen session Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field. If that goes well, manager Davey Martinez said he’ll throw a simulated game on Wednesday in St. Louis. And then if that goes well, he’ll make a minor league rehab start.str

Do the math, and that suggests the earliest Strasburg would be ready to pitch in a big league game for the Nationals is August 25. That would be a full five weeks removed from his lone start of the summer, July 20 against the Braves, during which he experienced the nerve issue in his neck that sent him back to the disabled list.

Upon returning from California, where he was given a nerve block injection in his neck, Strasburg expressed optimism he would be able to return “sooner rather than later.” He did indeed resume throwing within a few days, and by all accounts his progression since has gone well and according to plan.

Strasburg threw off a bullpen mound for the first time Wednesday in Washington. He might typically throw his next one two days later, which is what Erick Fedde (also rehabbing from a shoulder injury) has done this week, but Strasburg is taking an extra day off to allow him to ramp up to a more significant throwing session Saturday.

That session will bear some resemblance to a simulated game, with Strasburg throwing 15 pitches, then taking a “between-innings break,” then returning to throw another 15 pitches, then taking another break, ultimately building up to 60 pitches.

“He wants to throw a longer bullpen,” Martinez said. “He was supposed to throw it yesterday, so we pushed it back to tomorrow. We’ll try to get him up to about 60 pitches. And as of now he’s scheduled to throw a sim game on the 15th. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”

The simulated game would involve live hitters facing Strasburg before Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals. Assuming all goes well, he would probably be ready to pitch in a minor league game five days later.

That may sound like one more throwing session than the minimum needed, especially given the Nationals’ current place in the standings as time runs out on the season. But Martinez said he believes the minor league rehab game will be necessary before Strasburg pitches for the Nationals again.

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