Stephen Strasburg appears ready to begin a rehab assignment, and if all goes well in a side throwing session tomorrow, he'll make his first start on Sunday for Single-A Hagerstown.
He'll likely only throw an inning or two, but if he progresses without a setback, the Nationals appear to have him on track to progress quickly and return to the majors in early September. He would likely make his second rehab start on Aug. 12 at Single-A Potomac or Double-A Harrisburg, and could then pitch on the 17th and the 22nd.
Jordan Zimmermann's final start of the season will likely come on Aug. 22, and while manager Davey Johnson said he'd like it if Strasburg could slide seamlessly into that spot in the rotation, it seems unlikely the Nationals would bring him back on Aug. 27 in Cincinnati. But between Tom Gorzelanny, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, among other options not currently in their rotation, the Nationals should have enough options to get them through a start or two before Strasburg's return.
"It'd be nice, but (Strasburg and Zimmermann) are two different animals. They've got their own timeframe," Johnson said. "But I don't figure there'd be too much of a drop-off in that slot."
If the Nationals literally kept Strasburg in Zimmermann's slot the entire way through his rehab, he could return Sept. 2 against the Mets or Sept. 7 against the Dodgers at Nationals Park, though it would seem unlikely they'd put Strasburg in the majors without having him pitch in the minors as long as he could. If he stayed on an every-fifth-day plan all the way through, Sept. 6 against the Dodgers would be more likely.
The minor league season ends on Sept. 5, so Strasburg could make a final minor league start the first weekend of September before returning. But as you can see, there's still quite a bit of guesswork in this - especially when a rehab assignment gets involved - so that's about as much speculation as you're going to see from here about when Strasburg might be back in the majors. Use it at your own risk.