Rehab for Strasburg, Ross slowed by discomfort

Stephen Strasburg’s return from a neck injury has been slowed after the right-hander felt discomfort after facing live hitters last week prior to the Nationals’ game in San Francisco.

Strasburg made it through his July 9 simulated game against teammates at Oracle Park without any significant issues, manager Davey Martinez said, but the problem in his neck cropped up after the fact.

“After talking to him, the conversation was it just didn’t feel right,” Martinez said today during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “It felt achy. So my conversation with him was, ‘Let’s back down a little bit, and then we’ll see where you’re at and start throwing when you can.’ “

Strasburg has since resumed throwing; he played catch on flat ground from up to 120 feet Friday afternoon and said he felt “a lot better,” per Martinez. The Nationals now will decide how quickly to try to push him to get back on a mound and ultimately face hitters again.

Strasburg-Delivers-Blue-BAL-Sidebar.jpgIt’s been 6 1/2 weeks since Strasburg last pitched, a brief 1 1/3-inning start in Atlanta in which his velocity was down, his mechanics were off and his neck bothered him. He was diagnosed with nerve irritation and placed on the 10-day injured list for the second time this season, and he’s slowly been trying to build himself back up since.

The Nationals had been encouraged by Strasburg’s recent progress, leading up to his first session facing live hitters last week. But they’ve insisted all along they would not activate him until he was fully healthy and not in danger of needing to be shut down again.

It appears that won’t happen for a while longer.

“When he does say he felt something, then we need to listen, back off,” Martinez said. “He got treatment. We gave him a few days off. He’s throwing long (toss) again. ... But when Stephen comes back, I want him to come back and finish the season on the mound and not have this recurrence again.”

The Nationals also don’t expect to have Joe Ross back from the IL next week as originally hoped after the right-hander reported some lingering discomfort in his elbow during a throwing session Friday.

The club hoped Ross, who went on the IL just before the All-Star break with right elbow inflammation, would end up missing only one start. It now appears he’ll miss at least two.

Martinez said Jon Lester will start Monday night against the Marlins, with Paolo Espino (who pitched in relief during Friday’s blowout loss) likely starting Tuesday.

In more encouraging injury news, Tanner Rainey threw Friday from his feet, the first time the reliever has done that since being placed on the IL with a stress reaction in his right shin bone June 29. Rainey now just needs to start building his arm back up.

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