Zimmermann, Marquis, Wang on way back

While most of the focus at Nationals Park on Stephen Strasburg today, the Nationals have a handful of pitcher on the way back to good health who could soon join Strasburg in what the team hopes will be an improved rotation. Jordan Zimmermann and Jason Marquis were both at Nationals Park on Friday, working out to return from elbow surgeries.

Zimmermann, who had Tommy John surgery last July, is both further along and a bigger part of the Nationals’ future plans than Marquis. He’s seen as a possible No. 2 starter behind Strasburg, another top-of-the-rotation power pitcher who could soon elevate the Nationals’ starting staff. He threw 35 pitches in two innings of a simulated game today, mixing all four of his pitches - a fastball that’s already touched 94 mph, two sharp breaking balls and a changeup. Pitching coach Steve McCatty said Zimmermann’s changeup has the furthest to go, but then, it’s always been his fourth-best pitch. He isn’t expected to be back until August; the Nationals have had to hold him back, and he’s shooting for a rehab assignment.

Manager Jim Riggleman said when Zimmermann is healthy, he’d likely step right into the Nationals’ rotation.

Byron Kerr wrote more about Zimmermann here.

Marquis is still only playing catch after surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, but manager Jim Riggleman said the veteran will likely go to the team’s rehab facility in Viera, Fla., to get on a throwing program. He’s also likely to return by August.

And Wang, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Nationals last winter but was expected to miss the first couple months of the season while returning from shoulder surgery, is still working out in Florida. Pitching coach Steve McCatty said he called the right-hander recently to offer some encouragement while Wang plods through a throwing program.

“Being there from February until now, it starts to get really hot, and it wears on you,” McCatty said. “I just called to say, ‘Hey, we haven’t forgotten about you. You have to be patient and just make sure he builds his strength up slow.”