Through Stephen Strasburg's minor league rehab assignment, signs have been pointing toward the right-hander returning to the major leagues on Sept. 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now it's official.
Manager Davey Johnson told reporters in Atlanta this afternoon that Strasburg will join the rotation on Tuesday night, pitching in the majors for the first time since tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Aug. 21, 2010. Strasburg will make his final rehab start at Double-A Harrisburg on Thursday night, throw a side session two days later, and return to the majors if there are no setbacks.
His return has been one of the most anticipated events of the year for the Nationals; numerous local and national media outlets have chronicled Strasburg's rehab assignment after Tommy John surgery, and his first start at Single-A Hagerstown on Aug. 7 came before the third-largest crowd in the team's history.
Assuming Strasburg stays on an every-fifth-day schedule, he'll likely make his first three major league starts at home, facing the Astros on Sept. 11 and the Marlins on Sept. 16 before making his final two starts of the year on the road. He'd return to Philadelphia on Sept. 21, pitching in the ballpark where he injured his elbow, before ending his season at Florida on Sept. 26. All that assumes Strasburg is healthy and pain-free, but it's a reasonable schedule for him to end his year.
The Nationals will have to clear a spot in the rotation for Strasburg by next week; they'll likely stay with a five-man rotation the rest of the way, but they could either give one of their veterans (Livan Hernandez and John Lannan) a break the rest of the way. Considering Tom Milone and Brad Peacock are both likely to pitch in the majors next month (Milone will make his major league debut on Saturday), the Nationals could spend the final month of the season shuttling pitchers in and out of the rotation, or putting them in the bullpen, to get a look at them; they need to make evaluations on Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang, Milone and Peacock, in addition to monitoring Strasburg's health.
But most of those questions can, and will be, settled later. The date for Strasburg's return appears to be all set.