The Nationals are hoping Stephen Strasburg will feel well enough to start Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Braves, trying to avoid burning up their bullpen as an alternative in case he's not ready to return.
Strasburg was scratched from tonight's scheduled start due to an illness that has plagued him the last couple of days. Manager Dusty Baker said the outlook has looked better with each passing day, and Strasburg was out on the field during batting practice this afternoon for some workouts.
"He was really sick yesterday," Baker said. "So he feels better today than he did yesterday."
Tanner Roark, Thursday's originally scheduled starter, was given enough advance notice to prepare to pitch tonight instead, canceling a planned bullpen session Tuesday in anticipation of this possibility. He'll be pitching on five days' rest, so there's no issue with bringing him back to the mound ahead of schedule.
The potential issue facing the Nationals is Thursday's game, especially if Strasburg isn't 100 percent.
"We'd like to think that Stras will be ready tomorrow," Baker said. "And if he's not, then we'll come up with another solution."
That other solution likely would involve Yusmeiro Petit making a spot start, churning out as many innings as he can before handing the rest of the game over to his bullpen mates. That's assuming, of course, the versatile right-hander isn't needed before then.
"Petit, that's why we got him. Because he'll spot start and be a long man," Baker said. "That's what he did for the Giants so well. That doesn't really help us tonight, but we hope Tanner goes really deep in the game. A shutout would be wonderful."
Baker decided to give both Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman the night off, wanting to give each guy a chance to take a breather and be fresh for Thursday's 4:05 p.m. game against Braves ace Julio Teheran.
"We're going to need Zim tomorrow against their No. 1," Baker said. "And also it's kind of an afternoon-after-a-night game. I've got to preserve Zim. I'm sure he wants to play every day. That's how he is, and that's how you're supposed to be. But it's up to me to do what I think is best for the player."
Robinson has already started one game at first base this season, but Drew is making his first start at any position in 2016 and only his second career start at third base. The 33-year-old has more than 1,000 career games at shortstop and second base, but the hot corner remains new for him.
Drew hopes the extra work he received at third base during spring training will pay off now that he's out there for real.
"Spring went well," he said. "I worked really hard over there at it. That's really all I've got to go off of, this spring. Overall, I think it went well. ... Over there, the ball is obviously a little different read. And then it's your reaction time, how much you've got."