Strasburg to make next start Tuesday vs. Braves

Everything has felt normal for Stephen Strasburg since his season debut Thursday night, so the right-hander is good to remain on a five-day schedule and start Tuesday against the Braves at Nationals Park.

Strasburg emerged from his 83-pitch start in Miami and his subsequent workouts with no issues, giving club officials more reason to be optimistic he can proceed as a healthy member of the rotation after returning at last from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery.

“He’s got a good routine,” manager Davey Martinez said. “For him, it’s going to be every start, every five days in between, we just have to keep an eye on him and make sure nothing goes awry. So far, so good.”

The results from Strasburg’s start against the Marlins – seven runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings – weren’t encouraging, but both he and the team were highly encouraged by the way he felt physically throughout the game. Strasburg believed any struggles he had were a product of execution and/or pitch selection, not any residual effects of his injury.

There were signs the 33-year-old isn’t all the way back from the surgery, though. After retiring 10 of 12 batters during one stretch, he appeared tired in the bottom of the fifth, allowing five straight hits on loud contact. And his fastball velocity, which averaged 92-94 mph in his minor league rehab starts, was only 90-91 mph in his first big league game.

The Nationals believe that will begin to improve as he builds his arm back up, much as it would if he was coming out of spring training. They’ll get their first glimpse of any progress in that regard Tuesday against Atlanta.

“I don’t really want to put that kind of pressure on him,” Martinez said. “I just want him to go out there and continue to work on his mechanics like he has been, and just go out there and compete and throw strikes, whether it’s 90, 91, 92, 93. I think eventually it will come, but we’ll see.

“What I do know is the first outing I looked up there because I thought he was throwing the ball a lot harder than what it looked, and it was still 91. But he had some life at the end of his fastball, so that was good.”

Josiah Gray was announced as the starter for Monday’s series opener against the Braves. After Strasburg pitches Tuesday, Erick Fedde will start Wednesday’s series finale.

* Alcides Escobar is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list now, but the veteran infielder still has several hurdles to cross as he recovers from a right hamstring strain.

Escobar, who hurt himself making a tough play at shortstop May 31 in New York, has begun defensive work and has taken some swings. But running remains an issue.

“Right now he’s progressing,” Martinez said. “He’s taking ground balls, he’s hitting. It’s just a matter of the running. He said he still feels it a little when he tries to really run. But he’s taken a bunch of ground balls, he’s hitting. He’s getting close.”

The Nationals used Escobar’s injury as reason to promote Luis García from Triple-A Rochester, and the 22-year-old has started every game at shortstop since, entering today with a .359 batting average (as well as three errors). At the time, Martinez suggested he would need to have a conversation with Escobar about his role changing once he returned from the IL.

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