The Washington Times - August 17, 2011, 05:31PM

Right-hander Stephen Strasburg could start for the Nationals as soon as Sept. 2 against the Mets, according to a hypothetical schedule manager Davey Johnson discussed today.

What Johnson spoke about is an educated guess. No decisions have been made. But Johnson sees an opportunity for Strasburg, who makes his third rehabilitation start tonight with the Class A Hagerstown Suns, to take Jordan Zimmernann’s spot in the rotation.

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Zimmermann is limited to 160 innings in his first full season pitching since Tommy John surgery. That leaves 15 innings in his season, though Johnson is unsure if he can start Zimmermann if he’s, say, three innings shy of the 160 mark.

Zimmermann is scheduled to make his next three starts on Aug. 18, 23 and 28. Strasburg, barring any setbacks in his recovery from the same injury, would take the next turn. That would give him two rehabilitation starts after tonight’s stint of three innings or 50 pitches.

Strasburg’s 30-day minor league rehabilitation assignment is up Sept. 5. 

In non-Strasburg news, Johnson continued his search for a leadoff man by bumping Ian Desmond to the top spot and dropping Danny Espinosa to No. 6. Over 50 at-bats in the top spot this season, Desmond is hitting .180 with a .212 on-base percentage.

But Johnson admits he doesn’t have a prototypical leadoff man on the roster and is left to improvise. In Desmond, he sees someone who can bunt and run better than other optons like Espinosa and Rick Ankiel. Johnson expects the experimentation to continue through September, when Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi, who can both hit leadoff, are expected to be summoned from Triple-A.

Cincinnati Reds
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Dave Sappelt, LF
Joey Votto, 1B
Jay Bruce, RF
Miguel Cairo, 3B
Drew Stubbs, CF
Ramon Hernandez, C
Paul Janish, SS
Johnny Cueto, P

Washington Nationals
Ian Desmond, 2B
Rick Ankiel, CF
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Michael Morse, 1B
Jayson Werth, RF
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Jonny Gomes, LF
Wilson Ramos, C
Ross Detwiler, P