Several injured pitchers moving closer to return

The Nationals pitching staff has stabilized somewhat over the last two weeks, thanks to mostly quality performances from starters and thus fewer innings asked of the bullpen. But if and when more reinforcements are needed, several pitchers are inching closer to return from injury.

Aníbal Sánchez is scheduled to make his second rehab start for Triple-A Rochester tonight in the Red Wings’ series finale against Worcester. The 38-year-old right-hander last pitched Tuesday, lasting only 2 2/3 innings while throwing 61 pitches (only 34 strikes).

The Nationals, obviously, want to see more efficiency from Sánchez, who has been out since opening day with a cervical nerve impingement in his neck, allowing him to go deeper in the game. They’re targeting four innings for him.

“He says he’s going to go more,” manager Davey Martinez said with a look of skepticism in his eye. “We’ll see.”

As with Sánchez, the Nats want to see better results from Josh Rogers when he makes his second rehab start for Rochester later this week on the road at Lehigh Valley. The lefty, out since June 3 with an impingement in his shoulder, was roughed up for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings Thursday, serving up three homers.

Victor Arano, meanwhile, has begun throwing off a bullpen mound and is set to go to West Palm Beach to begin pitching in Rookie-level Florida Complex League games. The veteran reliever, out since June 6 with left knee inflammation, has made significant progress in the last week and likely won’t need much time on a minor league rehab assignment to build his arm back up to rejoin the bullpen.

“We’re going to try to ramp him up as quick as we can, try to get him back here, but he’s throwing the ball fine,” Martinez said. “He feels good. He has one other test that he’s doing today – agility stuff – to get him to move around to kind of emulate getting off the mound and doing some (pitchers’ fielding practice). So he’s going to do that today, and if that goes well, then I think he’ll be ready. He’ll face some hitters in Florida, and then we’ll probably send him out for a quick rehab.”

Evan Lee, who suffered a left flexor strain June 18, is also scheduled to travel to West Palm Beach and begin throwing while the Nationals are on the road this week.

Finally, Sean Doolittle remains pleased with the state of his arm after throwing long toss for the last week-plus. The veteran lefty, who sprained his elbow after only five early-April appearances, hopes to be cleared to start throwing off the bullpen mound by the end of the week.

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