Whatever hope Stephen Strasburg has of pitching for the Nationals again this season got a boost today when the right-hander threw off a bullpen mound for the first time since he injured his elbow against the Braves on Sept. 7.
The bullpen session was brief, roughly 25 pitches over perhaps 10 minutes, but it did represent a significant step for Strasburg in his longshot attempt to return in time to help the Nationals this postseason.
The Nationals did not include Strasburg on their 25-man roster for the National League Division Series, but they haven't ruled out the possibility of him returning should the club beat the Dodgers and advance deeper into October.
"I keep telling myself that," Strasburg told reporters on the field after his throwing session. "That's why I'm not just shutting it down. I'm working hard every single day to hopefully be in a position to pitch. But I can't speculate on that at this point."
Strasburg's injury was described by the Nationals at the time as a strained flexor mass, essentially a muscle strain near his elbow. The pitcher described it to reporters today as a partial tear of the pronator tendon, which is connected to the flexor mass. He said a platelet rich plasma injection helped that tear heal, allowing him to ramp up his throwing program.
Even if he's deemed healthy, the biggest issue confronting Strasburg at this point is time. He doesn't have much of it to make it back. While the bullpen session today was significant, he would still need to build up his arm far more than this and face live hitters before he could pitch in a game.
For now, the Nationals will let him go through the rehab process and give it a shot. Whether he can accomplish everything he'd need in such a short time frame remains to be seen.