DENVER — Stephen Strasburg was out on the mound at Coors Field early on Tuesday afternoon, throwing the equivalent of 3-4 innings in a simulated game. Coming through it with no pain or discomfort in the area of the Grade 1 strain in his right lat, Strasburg is on track to come off the disabled list and return to the Nationals’ rotation on June 16.
Strasburg threw 56 pitches to teammates Jeff Kobernus, Chris Marrero and Jhonatan Solano under the watchful eyes of the Nationals’ trainers, pitching coach Steve McCatty and manager Davey Johnson. He came through the session not only with an absence of tightness in his back, but also without much fatigue.
“I felt strong,” Strasburg said. “They wanted me to throw about 56 pitches but I didn’t really feel like I threw at all. I feel like my strength really stayed there, even though I have missed a couple starts.”
Strasburg was pulled after two inning on May 31 when he appeared uncomfortable on the mound in a start against the Atlanta Braves. Strasburg was grimacing and rolling his shoulders between pitches and the Nationals took no chances, removing him from the game immediately.
An MRI the following day revealed the mild lat strain and while the team was hopeful he could miss one start and avoid the disabled list, they erred on the side of caution when the tightness wasn’t completely gone last week.
After his simulated game on Tuesday, though, it appears Strasburg has gotten past the issue.
“It feels good,” he said. “I did what I need to do. I’ll throw a bullpen (in a few days) and hopefully be ready to go. I think today they wanted to treat it like a normal start, (and I’ll be on a) normal routine now.”
If all goes well between now and then, Strasburg will come off the disabled list and start against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
That would likely make him the second Nationals starter to return to the rotation this week as Ross Detwiler is scheduled to come off the disabled list and start on Thursday against the Colorado Rockies.
Detwiler, who has been out with a right oblique strain since May 15, has not had any setbacks after pitching in a rehab game on Saturday with Single-A Potomac.
“As long as he doesn’t slip getting out of the shower, we’re fine,” quipped Johnson.
The possible healthy returns of Detwiler and Strasburg will also give the Nationals’ rotation some clarity. Ross Ohlendorf will be called up from Triple-A to start against the Rockies on Wednesday and then the Nationals’ original starting five will fall in line.
Detwiler is expected to pitch Thursday with Gio Gonzalez pitching the first game in Cleveland on Friday, Jordan Zimmermann following him on Saturday and Strasburg on Sunday. Dan Haren, who started Tuesday night, would then open the Nationals’ series in Philadelphia on Monday.
That could mean that right-hander Nate Karns’ first major league stint is nearing its end, but Johnson said Tuesday the team will make that decision when it’s time.
“(He’s) right here for right now,” Johnson said. “We’ll see. Again, we also want to see how Stras is tomorrow… First we gotta get to tomorrow and then I’ll let you know.”
The Nationals could also option left-hander Xavier Cedeno back to Triple-A to clear a spot for Ohlendorf on Wednesday.