CHICAGO — It’s official: Stephen Strasburg will make his second rehab start Friday night with Single-A Potomac.
Strasburg will throw three innings on a 50-pitch limit. There will be a full story up on the site shortly including quotes from Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty and general manager Mike Rizzo as the team’s ace of the future continues his long road back from Tommy John surgery.
As far as his manager goes, Davey Johnson said he hasn’t talked to Strasburg recently, though he does know him well.
“He doesn’t need to hear from me,” Johnson said. “He wants to see me. His time’s coming. He just needs to be patient.”
The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win a signed Strasburg jersey and the first 1,000 fans will get an Ian Desmond Potomac Nationals bobblehead.
– Johnson also talked for a little while this afternoon about the offensive production of his right fielder, which has been better since the All-Star break — but certainly not the illuminating performance the Nationals were expecting and hoping for this season.
Since the All-Star break, Jayson Werth has hit .256 with three homers, 12 RBI, a .370 on-base percentage and an .818 OPS. If those were his season totals, sure you’d be a little disappointed in the average still, but they’d certainly be more acceptable than what they are: .223 average, .329 OBP, 13 HR, 43 RBI, .708 OPS. For perspective, former Nationals utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. has a higher OPS at .714. In fact, Hairston, who is putting together a nice season, also has a higher average and on-base percentage than Werth.
Still, Johnson said he likes some progress Werth has made recently — especially the relaxed feeling he sees from him while his teammates have perked up and begun to carry the offense more.
“Jayson, to me, is getting more relaxed and more comfortable in his surroundings all the time,” Johnson said. “Especially since some other guys have started to hit, I think it takes some pressure off him. I think sometimes coming over to a new ballclub, you put too much on your shoulders. I think he did that coming over here early, and kind of got himself messed up a little bit trying to do too much. He’s looking better all the time to me. He could bust out anytime.”
Johnson said some of the signs he saw from afar that Werth was carrying a heavy load was how many pitches he was taking and “trying to be too fine.” Werth sees an average of 4.26 pitches per plate appearance — well above the 3.77 MLB average. In recent weeks, when Werth has been more aggressive, he’s had more success. He said in Denver on Sunday that the more comfortable he feels, the more aggressive he gets. The Nationals hope that the small comfort he’s been feeling lately will translate.
“You can just tell watching from afar, I thought it looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Johnson said. “This is not a game that you can carry a lot of responsibilities. You’ve got to think about No. 1 and what you can do, and I think he was a little trying to help out too much in other areas.”
– Laynce Nix was feeling even better Tuesday after taking a few days to get over some flu-like symptoms that had him down in Denver. Nix took batting practice and went through what appeared to be a full workout with the team — a good indication that he’d be ready to start again soon. He seemed to be feeling fine when he hit a home run in batting practice that sailed clear over the right field seats and onto the street outside Wrigley Field. Sick or not, Nix still has some of the most unbelievable raw power.
– Livan Hernandez has come under some scrutiny lately as the veteran right-hander has struggled some and the Nationals young starters are getting more and more attention in the minor leagues. Hernandez threw a bullpen session early Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field and drew an audience that encompassed almost the entire Nationals bullpen as they waited to begin their daily game of ultimate frisbee. Hernandez said the session went well and everything feels good.