The Washington Times - April 18, 2012, 07:22PM

Washington Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang threw 35 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday, the first time since March 15 that the sinkerballer has faced live hitters — and a big step in his recovery from a strained left hamstring.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday that the plan is for Wang to begin a rehab assignment five days from now (on Monday) with a three-inning start at one of the Nationals’ minor league affiliates. 

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“He threw really good,” Johnson said. “Really good. Hard sink and a great curveball, which, we saw that in his last outing before he hurt his hammy. I knew his arm strength was going to be good.”

Because Wang came into spring training with his surgically-repaired right shoulder in such great shape and he’s kept his arm strength high with regular throwing throughout his injury, Johnson said he does anticipate Wang needing all 30 days allotted for a pitcher’s rehab assignment.

That being said, the Nationals have no plans to rush Wang back, for two reasons. First, he’s always going to be an injury risk after the way his career has unfolded so there’s simply no point in putting him on a mound in major league games before he’s 100 percent healthy and ready. But the Nationals also have a pretty darn good rotation going right now with Ross Detwiler as the No. 5 starter. They put him in that role, optioning John Lannan to the minor leagues, because they couldn’t justify hiding Detwiler in the bullpen — but that’s where he’d presumably head once Wang returns to the rotation. 

If they can squeeze a few more starts out of Detwiler while Wang is on rehab assignment, it wouldn’t be inconceivable for them to try.

– Nationals reliever Brad Lidge saved the team’s 1-0 victory over the Astros Tuesday night. It wasn’t without dramatics, and he admitted he didn’t have his best stuff, but he did it. 

Johnson revealed Wednesday afternoon that Lidge has also been dealing with vertigo the past four days, making his performance Tuesday night all the more impressive.

Johnson said he was unsure until he called down whether or not Lidge would be available but the right-hander spent much of Tuesday getting treatment with the Nationals’ trainers and he felt well enough to pitch. Lidge told Johnson that Wednesday morning was the first one he’s woken up without feeling the vertigo, which is extreme dizziness. 

“If you’ve ever hard vertigo, it’s something you don’t want,” Johnson said. “Can’t hardly walk a straight line.”

– We’re underway here at Nationals Park for the third in this four-game set with the Houston Astros but here are the lineups for reference behind Jordan Zimmermann and Lucas Harrell:

Nationals

Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Rick Ankiel CF
Wilson Ramos C
Roger Bernadina LF
Jordan Zimmermann P

Astros

 Jordan Schafer CF
Jed Lowrie SS
Travis Buck LF
Carlos Lee 1B
Brian Bogusevic RF
Chris Johnson 3B
Jason Castro C
Marwin Gonzalez 2B
Lucas Harrell P