Strasburg to start Sunday for Rochester in Trenton

Stephen Strasburg will make a rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Sunday, potentially the right-hander’s final tune-up before he rejoins the Nationals rotation, this start coming on the road against Buffalo, even though the game will be played in Trenton, N.J.

Confused enough yet? You’re not alone.

The most pertinent detail: Strasburg is going to face opposing hitters in an actual ballgame instead of teammates in a simulated game, the first time he will have done so since landing on the 10-day injured list April 18 with right shoulder inflammation.

The plan, manager Davey Martinez revealed this evening in his pregame Zoom session from Arizona prior to the Nats’ series opener against the Diamondbacks, is for Strasburg to throw five innings and about 75-80 pitches.

Strasburg-Delivers-Gray-STL-Wide-Sidebar.jpgThis follows a pair of simulated games at Nationals Park in which Strasburg faced teammates and began to build up his pitch and innings counts.

“So far, it’s been good,” Martinez said. “It’s a progression. He’s progressing really well. Hopefully he comes out of this outing feeling good. We’ll wait to see how he feels after he throws, the next day or two, and then we’ll go from there.”

Pre-pandemic, major leaguers who needed to go on a rehab assignment could head to any one of a club’s minor league affiliates, typically choosing the nearest team that’s playing at home. During the 2020 season, with no minor leagues, all rehab took place at a club’s alternate training site, which for the Nationals was in nearby Fredericksburg.

Now in 2021, though, all rehab assignments must take place with a Triple-A affiliate, whose players and staffers fall under the same Tier 1 protocols as the big leaguers. So in this case, it meant Strasburg would need to pitch for Rochester, no matter where the Red Wings are playing.

This Sunday, they’re scheduled to complete a season-opening, 12-game road trip against Buffalo, the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate. Except the Bisons aren’t able to play in Buffalo right now because crews are getting their ballpark ready for the Blue Jays, who still aren’t allowed to play in Toronto and are preparing to relocate from Dunedin, Fla., in a couple of weeks. That means the Buffalo Bisons are actually playing in New Jersey as the Trenton Thunder.

If you’re completely confused by all this, here’s the bottom line: Strasburg will be pitching in Trenton on Sunday afternoon. And if all goes well, he could be ready to come off the IL in time to make his next start late next week.

“That’s tough to say right now,” Martinez said. “We’ll evaluate him after he’s done with this next outing.”

If nothing else, the Nationals are pleased to be able to have Strasburg (and other rehabbing players) face a Triple-A opponent instead of being stuck at the alternate training site like they were last year.

“It’s good, cause they get to compete against another team, which is what they’d do here,” Martinez said. “It’s good to see that. It’s good to get him in a live game and do what they do. We’ll see how he comes out of it. Hopefully he comes out well. I’m just looking for health-wise right now, that he comes out and pitches five innings, and he comes out feeling good, no issues with his shoulder, and then we’ll go from there.”

Meanwhile, the Nationals expect Patrick Corbin to make his next start as scheduled (likely Tuesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field) after going on the paternity list today. Corbin, whose wife, Jen, gave birth to a baby boy early this morning, will attempt to throw a bullpen session sometime this weekend and line himself up to rejoin the team in Chicago.

If for some reason Corbin can’t make the start, Martinez said Paolo Espino (who was recalled from Rochester today to fill Corbin’s spot on the roster) would start in his place.

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