Stephen Strasburg makes the third start of his rehab assignment tonight at Single-A Hagerstown, and it's clear from Davey Johnson's remarks this afternoon that the Nationals manager doesn't want to wait too much longer to have him in the major league rotation.
Johnson has been playing the same game that fans and reporters play, scribbling out the prospective dates of Strasburg's starts and trying to figure out when he might return to Nationals Park. And while he prefaced it by saying he hadn't talked to general manager Mike Rizzo yet, he floated Sept. 2 as a possible return date.
There are a few circumstances that make that date a little hard to fathom. First, the Nationals have been trying to tie Strasburg's starts to Jordan Zimmermann's, so Strasburg can enter the rotation when Zimmermann hits his limit of roughly 160 innings. But Zimmermann was bumped back a day because of the Nationals' rainout in Philadelphia on Sunday, and the team's off-day on August 29 means a Sept. 2 return would put Strasburg a day ahead of Zimmermann's slot.
It's also hard to see Strasburg returning to the majors before the end of the minor league season on Sept. 5, which is why Sept. 6 still seems like a more plausible option; it would keep Strasburg on a regular rest schedule, and the Nationals would have time to make the necessary adjustments to their rotation.
The point remains the same, though: Johnson wants to see Strasburg as soon as he can. He's generally gotten what he wants as Nationals manager, though Strasburg's handling has always been a special case for the team.
Like just about everybody else who follows the Nationals, Johnson will wait with keen interest.
"It looked like, to me, that (Zimmermann) would have three more starts - he would start on the 18th, then the 23rd, and the 28th," Johnson said. "Five days after that would be the 2nd against the Mets. I'm just trying to think with what they're doing down there (in the minors), how it would coincide or if I need to find an interim (starter between Strasburg and Zimmermann)."