Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound for the Nationals tonight, two weeks after he was scratched from a start against the Atlanta Braves, inducing panic at Nationals Park and indirectly making Miss Iowa, Katherine Connors, a household name among Nationals fans.
Everything has checked out fine with his right shoulder; Strasburg has thrown a bullpen session and a simulated game without pain, and the Nationals say he wouldn't be on the mound at all if he was hurting.
Nonetheless, expect a cautious approach with the rookie tonight.
His health and his mechanics, both non-issues before July 27, have come under close scrutiny since then. The Nationals have so far responded to the high stakes of Strasburg's development with a conservative approach, and that's not likely to change tonight. If the Nationals have a lead after five innings, it wouldn't be surprising to see manager Jim Riggleman take him out there.
But while he is on the mound, facing the Florida Marlins for the second time, Strasburg will undoubtedly bring a lift to a rotation that's looked markedly different without him. Strasburg, Scott Olsen, John Lannan, Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis give the Nationals their most reliable rotation of the season - though Marquis' struggles remain an issue.
With Strasburg at the front of that group, though, the Nationals have a shutdown pitcher again. They'll be cautious with him, as they've been all season, but however much he's allowed to throw, Strasburg will make a difference.