Strasburg, Ross throw simulated games; Escobar out again

Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross each made it through the first simulated games of their rehab programs strong and are prepared to go through that drill again this weekend.

Strasburg and Ross pitched in those game situations Monday at the Nationals’ spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla. Davey Martinez didn’t have details on the number of innings or pitches each threw, but the manager had previously said they were scheduled for two innings a piece.

“What I got was: They both felt good,” Martinez said, relaying information he received from the organization’s medical staff. “So that’s good.”

This was a key step for both right-handers in their return from injury-plagued 2021 seasons. Strasburg, who had thoracic outlet surgery last July, and Ross, who was shut down last summer with a partially torn elbow ligament and then had surgery in March to remove a bone spur, had previously only thrown live batting practice.

The simulated game allowed both righties to pitch in a situation that more closely resembles a real game. Facing teammates who are also rehabbing in Florida, they would typically throw about 15 pitches per “inning,” then return to the dugout to rest for 10-15 minutes before taking the mound for their second “inning” of work.

Martinez said both Strasburg and Ross are scheduled to throw another simulated game, perhaps building up to a third inning, either Friday or Saturday. Once they’ve progressed enough through that process, they should head north for a rehab assignment with one of the Nationals’ minor league affiliates.

If everything goes well with no setbacks, Strasburg and Ross would seem to be on track to join the Nationals rotation and make their 2022 debuts sometime in early June.

* Alcides Escobar is out of the lineup for the second straight night, still hampered by an issue with his left index finger.

Escobar got an infection under the fingernail and had to be scratched from Tuesday night’s series opener. The veteran shortstop tried to suggest he could hit with his swollen index finger off the bat, kind of like former Nats shortstop Trea Turner did after breaking his finger during the 2019 season, but Martinez didn’t want him to risk it.

Doctors removed fluid from his finger today, and that helped, though Escobar’s finger remains sore.

“He said he feels better, but the one knuckle’s pretty swollen still, pretty sore still,” Martinez said. “If we need him today, he said he’s available. But to put him in the game and all of a sudden something happens, then we’re playing short. I’d rather play Dee out there again.”

Dee Strange-Gordon is starting his second straight game at shortstop in Escobar’s place. The veteran utilityman has appeared at shortstop, left field, center field and even pitched early this season, though he has yet to play the position where he’s spent most of his career: second base.

Strange-Gordon was charged with an error during Tuesday night’s loss, making a wild throw to first base on Mark Canha’s grounder in the top of the seventh.

“I looked at all that stuff last night, and it’s just basically using your legs,” Martinez said, referencing not only Strange-Gordon’s error but also Maikel Franco’s ninth-inning throwing error, which led to an unearned run. “You’ve got to use your legs to throw, and a lot of times when they make the errors, they don’t. They’re off-balance and they just throw the ball. We talked to them about that today.”

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