Stephen Strasburg takes first step
Stephen Strasburg played catch in the Nationals Park outfield Sunday morning, his first step in returning from the right shoulder inflammation that landed him on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his rookie season.
Strasburg made two sets of 25 throws from about 60 feet, throwing easily to a Nationals bullpen catcher as head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz looked on. His shoulder responded how the Nationals hoped it would following four days of inaction.
"If you have inflammation and you settle that down, you feel like he felt," Kuntz said. "He felt good."
After completing a regimen over the coming week while traveling with the Nationals to Arizona and Los Angeles, Strasburg could return as early as the Nationals' next homestand, which starts Aug. 10. On Tuesday, Strasburg will throw off a mound in a bullpen session. On Thursday, if all goes well, Strasburg will take his biggest test, a simulated game with batters standing at the plate.
Strasburg will throw the simulated game "pretty close to maximum effort," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "We'll see if there's any downside after that. That's when we'll know the most, is when he throws to some hitters, and see how the hitters react to him. But also, mainly, see how that shoulder feels."
Strasburg, Riggleman said, will not require a rehab start so long as his shoulder feels right after the simulated game and another bullpen session. "He would still be built up enough to continue on and pitch," Riggleman said.
While Strasburg would be on schedule to potentially return for the next homestand, that is an "optimistic" plan, Riggleman said. "We're not going to hold ourselves or hold him to that. It's all about how his shoulder responds."
The extra throwing Strasburg requires to build his shoulder back to strength is, of course, more strenuous than a typical throwing program between starts. The Nationals will count the extra throwing as "a couple innings" toward his 160-inning limit this season, Riggleman said. Between the minors and majors, Strasburg has thrown 109 2/3 innings.
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