Brandon Kintzler and Jeremy Hellickson each have passed significant throwing tests in the last few days and now are set to face minor league hitters this weekend in a final tune-up before returning to the Nationals' active roster.
Kintzler threw a bullpen session Wednesday, his first since going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right forearm. The reliever focused on throwing fastballs during that mound session, so he'll do another round Friday and focus on his off-speed pitches.
"I'll throw off-speed tomorrow, and that will test it," he said. "And if I get out of that, I think I'll be fine."
Kintzler, who last pitched two weeks ago, doesn't believe a rehab assignment is necessary - "Two weeks is not much," he said. "Sometimes you go two weeks without pitching (when healthy)." - but manager Davey Martinez suggested at least one token outing in a minor league game is likely in the cards.
"I'd like for him to go down and maybe throw an inning and see where he's at," Martinez said. "I'll have that conversation with him and (director of athletic training Paul Lessard). But he says he feels pretty good."
Hellickson, meanwhile, threw off the mound Wednesday in a session designed to mimic a simulated game. (The right-hander couldn't go through that actual planned sim game against live hitters because of rain.)
There was some thought the Nationals might activate Hellickson (out since he strained his right hamstring June 3 in Atlanta) and have him start a game this weekend against the Phillies. But it appears he'll need to face minor league hitters first.
"We're probably going to send him down to pitch," Martinez said, "try to get him five or six innings down in the minor leagues somewhere."
With that plan in place, the Nationals thus will send two rookies (Erick Fedde and Jefry Rodriguez) to the mound this weekend against Philadelphia. Tanner Roark is slated to start Friday night's series opener, with Fedde and Rodriguez to follow.
Matt Wieters, meanwhile, ran "a little bit today on the field," Martinez said. That's the first time the veteran catcher has done that since suffering a left hamstring injury May 10 in Arizona.
The Nationals will continue to take their time with Wieters, who shortly after having surgery on the hamstring projected a six-week recovery period.
"It's all a progression right now," Martinez said. "He's got to really feel comfortable running. That's a bad injury, especially for a catcher. We want to make sure he's very comfortable running and squatting for nine innings. There's no set timetable for him. We'll just play it by ear."