The Road Back: Chronicling Stephen Strasburg's return to the major leagues

On June 9, 2009, the Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Strasburg, a right-hander from San Diego State University, was one of the most highly touted draft picks in recent memory and from his first day in the Nationals' organization, caught the eye of baseball fans around the country. Nearly one year later, amid flashbulbs at a sold-out Nationals Park, Strasburg made his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates, going seven innings and striking out a franchise-record 14 batters. Only two months later, however, Strasburg's rookie campaign came to a close with an elbow injury, and he later underwent Tommy John surgery. Since then, fans have been anxious, wondering if and when Strasburg would make it back to the big leagues. It's been months of rehabilitation, but Strasburg is close to making his comeback, close to returning to the major leagues, close to completing his journey on The Road Back Videos: For all videos relating to Strasburg, click here. Sept. 6: The long-awaited day has finally arrived (but so has a rainy forecast, which could alter the Nationals' plans for Strasburg) and the right-hander is set to face the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight.'s Byron Kerr, who saw several of Strasburg's six minor league rehab starts, wonders whether the Nats are rushing their prized pitcher back and comes to a conclusion that the team has taken the correct, if conservative, approach. Though rain threatened the outing, Strasburg still took the hill during a break in the showers. Box score: Strasburg worked five innings, allowing two hits without a walk and striking out four. He threw 40 of his 56 pitches for strikes. Sept. 5: On the eve of Strasburg's first major league start of the season, Nationals manager Davey Johnson told reporters that rain in the forecast could affect the right-hander's scheduled outing. If Strasburg warms up, he'll either pitch or be bumped to another day; he won't start, wait out a delay and later resume pitching. Also, Wilson Ramos will catch Strasburg on Tuesday. He's now expected to throw four innings or 60 pitches, assuming rain doesn't ruin the Nats' plans. Sept. 3:'s Byron Kerr caught up with Strasburg following his side session Saturday, where the right-hander confirmed his schedule for the near future and his anticipation for returning to the Nationals' rotation for the end of this season and next year, too. Sept. 2: Strasburg returns to make his first major league start since Aug. 21, 2010. He will pitch exclusively at home for the rest of the season, reports's Ben Goessling. Sept. 1: Strasburg will be making his 2011 debut Sept. 11. In that start, Strasburg is expected to go five innings or throw 80 pitches, reports's Pete Kerzel from Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, Pa. It will be a way to ease him back in to the major leagues. After his final rehab start for Double-A Harrisburg, Strasburg sounded a lot like a player who was committed to still working hard. Box score: For the second straight game, Strasburg worked five no-hit innings and finished with six shutout innings of one-hit ball. His fastball topped out at 99 and the right-hander displayed a tantalizing curve and a wicked slider. He fanned four and didn't walk a batter, while throwing 53 of his 70 pitches for strikes. Aug. 31 Strasburg will make his final rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg Thursday. In that start, Strasburg has the chance to help Harrisburg clinch a playoff berth in the Eastern League. Aug. 29: Manager Davey Johnson confirmed Strasburg will be making a start for the Nationals Sept. 6. It will be Strasburg's first major league start since Aug. 21, 2010, when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. Aug. 29: The Nationals announce that Strasburg will make his sixth - and presumably final - minor league rehab start for Double-A Harrisburg on Thursday against the Portland Sea Dogs. There's a good chance that Ivan Rodriguez, currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury, could be Strasburg's battery mate. Aug. 27: In his fifth rehab outing, Strasburg impressed at Triple-A Syracuse. The most encouraging part of this outing was the return of his curveball against the highest level of hitters in the minor leagues, wrote correspondent Lindsay Kramer. Box score: Strasburg worked five-plus innings, allowing a run on two hits. He didn't walk a hitter, fanned seven and didn't factor in the decision in a 4-3 Syracuse victory over Rochester. Aug. 25: Reliever Ryan Mattheus, who underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2009, understands what Strasburg is facing at this stage of his rehabilitation. The biggest hurdle for a pitcher, Mattheus said, is not trying to be too careful with the surgically repaired joint. Aug. 24: Just days before his fifth rehab start, Strasburg took part in batting practice at Nationals Park. After throwing a side session, Strasburg took a round of batting practice with the team, making it more likely Strasburg will be back in the majors before season's end. It's also announced that MASN will broadcast, on a tape-delayed basis, Strasburg's rehab start Saturday night at Triple-A Syracuse against Rochester. Aug. 23: With Strasburg nearing his return to the majors, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell remarked how the right-hander's path back to full health is nearly complete, and that despite the injury a season ago, Strasburg might be better than ever when he pitches in Nationals Park once again. Aug. 23: Strasburg will make his fifth rehab start Saturday at Triple-A Syracuse, according to manager Davey Johnson. This will likely be his second-to-last start before returning to the Nationals. Aug. 23: After completing his fourth rehab start earlier this week, Strasburg talked about what has changed in the year since his major league debut. In addition to recapturing his mechanics, the right-hander says he improved his overall strength and conditioning, readying himself for another stint in the majors. See what's Byron Kerr had to say about Strasburg and how his new approach could have fans watching an even-stronger version of Strasburg. Aug. 22: In his latest rehab start, Strasburg hit 98 mph on the radar gun and had a 12-pitch second inning in which he recorded a pair of strikeouts. After the game Strasburg assessed his performance and shared his thoughts below on his latest rehab start. Box score: Strasburg lasted three innings, allowing two runs on two hits, but picking up six strikeouts for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns.
Video: Part 1 of Strasburg's postgame press conference as he makes his fourth rehab start

Aug. 19:'s Tom Kolker chats with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who gave an update on both Bryce Harper and Strasburg. Check out the video here. Aug. 18: Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced that Strasburg would make his fourth rehab start Monday, Aug. 22 in Single-A Hagerstown and, if all went well, would make his fifth start in Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, Aug. 27. Aug. 17: In his third rehab start, Strasburg ran into some trouble. According to's Byron Kerr, Strasburg struggled with his breaking pitches. Box score: Strasburg pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on four hits and two walks. He threw 49 pitches, 29 for strikes with the Single-A Hagerstown Suns and despite the early bumps, was able to settle down and keep his velocity hovering in the upper 90s once again. Video: Watch Strasburg's thoughts on his third rehab start here. Aug. 17: With so much excitement surrounding Strasburg, Nationals manager Davey Johnson admitted he's "getting anxious" to see his young pitcher back in the majors. Check out what Johnson had to say about Strasburg and how his entrance back into the team's starting rotation would affect the current one. Aug. 15: Strasburg will make his third rehab start Wednesday, Aug. 17 for the Hagerstown Suns, the club announced. See the details of Strasburg's expected start here. Aug. 12: Just five days after his first rehab start, Strasburg was back on the mound for his second outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Starting for the Single-A Potomac Nationals, Strasburg had his best performance to date, throwing three innings of shutout ball and picking up five strikeouts through 33 pitches.'s Byron Kerr was there to see the right-hander and shared his thoughts on Strasburg's latest step back toward the major leagues. Aug. 9: Strasburg will make his second rehab start Aug. 12, the Single-A Potomac Nationals announced. Coming off his first start, in which Strasburg threw 31 pitches, the right-hander will likely throw three innings or 45 pitches. Aug. 7: As Strasburg took part in his first rehab start for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns, Washington Post's Jason Reid notices that no matter the venue or the circumstances, some players are bigger than the game and when Strasburg takes the mound, all eyes are on him. As Reid took in Strasburg's rehab start in Hagerstown, check out this interesting perspective on just how much of an impact Strasburg makes with each appearance. Aug. 7: With nearly a year's worth of hype as a backdrop, Strasburg took the mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in his first rehab start for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns.'s Ben Goessling was there, noting Strasburg's velocity consistently held in the upper 90s, despite giving up a home run over his 1 2/3 innings of work. See Strasburg's thoughts on his outing here. Aug. 5: With fans eager to see Strasburg back in the majors this season, there hasn't been much discussion on what his return to the Nationals means for the future, specifically 2012. With a young rotation, the Nationals will have plenty of options and's Ben Goessling addressed those options. Aug. 3: Following a successful side session today, it was speculated that Strasburg would begin his rehabilitation starts with an appearance with Single-A Hagerstown on Aug. 7. With the potential of Strasburg returning to the majors by season's end, check out what's Ben Goessling thinks that will do to the current roster and get the details on Strasburg's timetable through the minors. Aug. 3: In one of his last stops before taking the mound in a real game, Strasburg underwent a simulated game in Viera, Fla., where Florida Today columnist Mark DeCotis watched the right-hander throw more than 50 pitches over three innings. Aug. 2: Before beginning his rehab assignments, Strasburg completed a simulated game in Viera, Fla., where he threw 51 pitches, 32 for strikes.'s Ben Goessling got a report from a fellow reporter who witnessed Strasburg's outing and reported his findings here. July 29: Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo sat down with's Tom Kolker to talk about, among other topics, the possibility of Strasburg pitching in the major leagues in 2011. Check out what Rizzo had to say about the phenom pitcher. July 16: For the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery, Strasburg faced live hitters, throwing to several in Viera, Fla. As for his possible return to the Nationals, check out general manager Mike Rizzo's thoughts on what has to happen before fans can see Strasburg back in our nation's capital. June 27-28:'s Ben Goessling caught up with Strasburg in Viera, Fla, where the right-hander was undergoing the final phase of his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery before embarking on his minor league rehabilitation assignment. Check out Part I, Part II and Part III of's one-on-one interview with Strasburg, who said his expectations of the recovery process were "spot on."

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