The Washington Times - March 14, 2011, 04:20PM

VIERA, Fla. — Stephen Strasburg and Nationals trainer Lee Kuntz were in right field early this morning at Space Coast Stadium as the right-hander continued to take steps in his rehab from Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery by playing catch with Kunts from 90 feet.

The Nationals prized flamethrower reported no issues as his gradual progression continues.

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“My arm strength is slowly starting to come back,” Strasburg said. “At first, when we stretched (the distance) out a little bit, it looked far away. Now it looks pretty normal, it looks like 90 feet, like it used to.”

Strasburg will continue to periodically add 15 feet to the distance between him and Kuntz when the two play catch, working at bringing flexibility back to the elbow and breaking up scar tissue, until they reach the point where the 22-year-old is ready to take the next step in his rehab process.

“There’s no choice (but to be patient),” he said. “You can’t just wake up the next morning and expect to get on a mound. It’s a slow, gradual process. It’s all about the steady, slow progress.”

That process will likely be aided by the significant conditioning and core strengthening work the right-hander did this offseason — all part of a plan, he said, to keep him in the Nationals rotation for the long haul.

“My goal is to be the horse in this rotation,” Strasburg said. “I want to go 200 to 200-plus innings every year, so it’s something I’m working hard for and I feel like I’m on the right track to get there.

“I think (the core work) is going to really pay dividends in the long run. If you develop a stronger base, you’re not going to put as much strain on the smaller muscles in your arm.”