- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2011

Tuesday afternoon, under the Florida sun, Stephen Strasburg will throw a simulated game. Chances are, if all goes well with his surgically repaired right elbow, the Washington Nationals ace will pitch in a professional game.

Strasburg is getting close to going on a rehab assignment - manager Davey Johnson speculated it could come in the next seven to 10 days - and the time between then and his first post-surgery major league start could then begin to be counted.

“Started the packing process,” the Nationals right-hander tweeted Sunday night. “[Getting] close to leaving Florida.”

It has been 314 days since Strasburg last stood on a major league mound, shaking his right arm in Philadelphia after a pitch to Domonic Brown. Getting him on a mound at all would be a monumental step in his return to D.C. and one that is much-anticipated.

He won’t be the only young Nationals pitcher on a path to Washington, though. The youth movement will start Thursday when Ross Detwiler makes what looks to be the first of several audition-type starts in the season’s final two months. It will continue in the form of left-hander Tom Milone, right-hander Brad Peacock and righty Brad Meyers.

“It’s no secret I’d like to get some experience for some of the guys that we’re high on,” Johnson said, excluding Strasburg. “Basically, I can get them an opportunity to see what it’s like up here. I’m looking to get some experience for some guys that haven’t had any.

“It’s not so much saying anything derogatory about what’s been here, but that’s definitely the future here and you guys will want to see it. I want to see it.”

As far as the order in which they might be presented, Milone is considered closer to “major league-ready” than Peacock because he’s had more seasoning at Triple-A. Milone (8-6, 3.62 ERA), who has 120 strikeouts to just 10 walks, is dealing with some bicep soreness. It’s not considered major and shouldn’t derail his chances of being called up.

Peacock has made just three starts in Triple-A after going 10-2 with a 2.35 ERA (129 strikeouts, 23 walks) in Double-A and pitching in the Futures Game. He got off to a rough start at Triple-A, but Peacock took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his most recent outing.

Meyers on Monday made his first start since June 30, working back from what the team termed a “minor” injury, and he’s also in that mix. They could all potentially be added to a rotation that includes Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan.

The Nationals began the season with a rotation that had a combined 902 major league starts. They lost 264 of them when they traded Jason Marquis to Arizona on Saturday, but Washington still boasts an array of arms with an exceptional amount of promise.

“We’re very pitching-strong here,” Detwiler said. “We have the pieces, I think. It’s just putting them together now. Obviously, we have an abundance of pitchers. I think that really is what makes teams go, what wins championships is the pitching.”