Hellickson getting MRI, Strasburg still on target for Tuesday

ST. LOUIS - Jeremy Hellickson may not be able to make his next scheduled start for the Nationals, but Stephen Strasburg appears on track to return himself and perhaps mitigate the loss of Hellickson to a wrist injury suffered during Wednesday’s loss.

Hellickson-Back-Gray-sidebar.jpgHellickson, who hurt himself bracing for impact after he jumped over the Cardinals’ Harrison Bader sliding across the plate on a wild pitch, had his right wrist wrapped in a protective sleeve today. He didn’t attempt to play catch, as pitchers typically do the day after a start, and admitted the wrist is still sore.

Hellickson is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Friday after the team returns to Washington. Before he can make another start, he’ll need to be able to throw off a bullpen mound with no problems, and manager Davey Martinez admitted that may not be possible in time.

“He needs to show us that he can throw a bullpen,” Martinez said. “Which, as of right now, probably no. The MRI’s going to dictate a lot tomorrow.”

Hellickson’s next turn in the rotation comes Tuesday against the Phillies, but that’s already the game the Nationals are targeting for Strasburg to make his return from the disabled list.

Strasburg, who has made only one start since June 8 due to back and neck injuries, emerged from Wednesday’s 70-pitch simulated game at Busch Stadium feeling well, so he’s now set to throw a standard between-starts bullpen session Saturday in Washington.

That seemingly puts Strasburg on schedule to start Tuesday, either in the majors against Philadelphia or in the minors on a rehab assignment. The Nationals obviously would like for the start to take place on South Capitol Street, but that decision won’t be made in conjunction with any decision about Hellickson’s status.

“We’ll have to keep those separate,” Martinez said. “Strasburg said he felt pretty good today. So he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday. And depending on how that goes, we’ll see where we’re at then.”

Erick Fedde, meanwhile, will begin a rehab assignment Monday, the right-hander’s first such game appearance since he landed on the DL with shoulder inflammation following his July 4 start against the Red Sox.

Fedde has been on a parallel throwing program as Strasburg for the last few weeks, but his return to the majors will come later than the veteran’s return. Because he was transferred to the 60-day DL earlier this week when the Nats needed to clear a 40-man roster spot for reliever Tim Collins, Fedde now isn’t eligible to return until September 3. That means he’ll most likely make three rehab starts before returning to pitch for the Nationals in the season’s final month.

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