Strasburg builds up to 62 pitches, Suero almost ready to return

Stephen Strasburg took a significant step forward in his return from a shoulder injury today when he threw 62 pitches over four innings during a simulated game at Nationals Park.

Strasburg, out since April 18 with right shoulder inflammation, was initially scheduled to only pitch three innings but felt strong enough after walking off the mound following the third simulated frame to ask for an opportunity to go back out for another. The club's coaching and medical staff agreed, so he wound up pushing himself further than planned.

"He threw a little bit more than anticipated," manager Davey Martinez said during his Zoom session with reporters prior to Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies. "Which, to me, is a good sign. ... That's great. That tells me his legs are getting underneath him a little bit. He's feeling a lot better."

Strasburg hasn't reported any shoulder trouble during either of his two simulated game appearances so far. If that remains the case, the Nationals can treat this now as nothing more than a ramp-up to get his arm and body ready to return to the big league rotation, no different than if this was the final week or two of spring training.

"Right now, he hasn't complained about his shoulder," Martinez said. "It's just about building strength, continue to build strength, get him back out there like in real game situations. I talked to him today after, and he said he felt fine. He's going to go get some work done, and we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

The Nationals will need to decide the next step for Strasburg later this week. They could either keep him with the big league club to throw another simulated game in front of the big league staff, or they could send him on an official rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester to make what likely would be a five-inning start.

In either scenario, if Strasburg can get up to the 80-pitch mark in his next outing, it's possible he'll be ready to be activated and can rejoin the Nats rotation five days later.

"He wants to get back," Martinez said of the right-hander, who made only two starts last season before needing carpal tunnel surgery and made only two starts this April before landing on the 10-day injured list again. "After being on the IL, for anybody, a long period of time, you get antsy. Sometimes you get a little ornery because you just want to come back. But you have to put the work in. And he's done that. He's done everything you can possibly do to come back quick. He's in a good place."

Suero-Throws-Blue-Sidebar.jpgWhile they wait a bit longer for Strasburg to return, the Nationals appear poised to get a key reliever back within the next 24-48 hours. Wander Suero, on the 10-day IL with a left oblique strain, successfully made a one-inning rehab appearance for Rochester on Sunday and now just needs to be cleared by doctors to be activated.

Suero, who led the staff with eight appearances prior to landing on the IL on April 18, will work out today and meet with the medical staff. Martinez said the club could elect to add him back to the active roster Wednesday or Thursday.

That would be a significant boon to what already has been a surprisingly effective bullpen.

"He knows how much I use him. Everybody knows that," Martinez said with a laugh. "It's good to have, especially when he's throwing the ball well."

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