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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 12/20/2010

Stephen Strasburg expects to start throwing before start of spring training

By Dave Sheinin

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg said Monday his rehabilitation from elbow ligament-replacement surgery remains on pace, and he expects to begin throwing again in California "a few weeks before" reporting to spring training in Viera, Fla., along with the team's other pitchers and catchers in mid-February.

"They're not going to say I'm ahead of schedule, because they don't want to get my hopes up," Strasburg said of the doctors and physical therapists charting his recovery. "But physically I feel great. I don't have an exact schedule, but they say I'm on track. I'm just taking it week by week and trying to get stronger."

Strasburg, whose sensational rookie season was cut short by surgery on Sept. 3, has been undergoing strength training near his San Diego home, focused on strengthening his lower body, back and core, and also physical therapy designed to strengthen his shoulder, which could otherwise weaken during the months of inactivity following the surgery.

"It was hard starting out," Strasburg said during a brief conference call with reporters who cover the team regularly, "but it's gotten a lot easier, that's for sure."

Barring setbacks, Strasburg could begin a minor-league rehab assignment by summer 2011 and could rejoin the Nationals by the end of the season. However, a more conservative track could put him back on a big league mound for the start of the 2012 season.

By Dave Sheinin  | December 20, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Comments

Nice to hear, but they are going to take it slow with the kid and he's not going to be in the bigs but for some ticket sales starts in early September, if we're lucky. And then only a couple as they are not going to trot him out in the cold either.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 20, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Take it sloooowwww, kiddo, take it sloowwww. I know you may wanna start throwing your 99-mph heater right now, but listen to your doctors, ok? :-)

Posted by: Juan-John1 | December 20, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

No sense rushing him back. Take the time to let him heal properly.

Is Zimmermann going to be able to go 100% this year or is he going to be limited with pitch counts or IPs?

Posted by: derwink | December 20, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

People say we're negative but let's break it down. For 2 year's I've been crying out where's the starting pitching? For 2 years Rizzo has promised to go out and get a bonifide starting pitcher. In 2 years he's signed one free agent starter, who on a good team would be a back of the rotation fill-in-- Jason Marquis. That's it. Anyone else, oh yea, he made 100 year old Livan, bless his heart, our ace. Livan!!
What pitcher has he signed this year? What pitcher is he going to sign?
This aint rocket science peeps. This is common sense. Without starting pitching you can't compete. The Nats have none and refuse to go out and get any.
And you wonder why we're negative?
It's absurd!

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | December 20, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

derwink, Zimmermann threw only 70 innings last year between MiLB and MLB.
I'm sure he'll be on an undefined pitch count limit and innings limit.
In 2008, he threw 134 in MiLB.
In 2009 he threw 100 in MiLB and MLB before getting hurt.

I'd ballpark him at max at about 150 innings, and with a pitch count where he's usually at 5 or 6 innings.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 20, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

It seems like a lot of posters on the comments like to blast Rizzo for not signing more top free agents, and then mock him when he tries, saying that no quality player would ever come here.

@skins_fan -- who would you have signed this off-season if you were in Rizzo's shoes? Cliff Lee wasn't ever going to come here. Grienke nixed the trade. It's pretty easy to criticize all the time, but what would you have done differently?

Posted by: DavidandDonald1 | December 20, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Every baseball team from Little League through MLB knows you need pitching. Those that have it aren't giving it away and we can't make free agents sign with us. Rizzo is trying from all reports, but it's not easy to bring in top notch starting pitching without given away the farm. You are almost forced to draft and develope the pitching. Unfortunately that takes time.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | December 20, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

They've got Tommy John surgery down to a science these days. The arm strength and velocity come back, likely, before the command. I would think JZimm would be pretty smooth sailing, at this point. The Nats are pretty cautious anyway with their pitch counts, usually at about the 100 pitch mark. I wouldn't expect JZimm's to be too much short of that and, I agree, they will probably put a cap on innings short of 200. Eventually they'll have to give these guys some slack, though. If they cut Stras' innings to much in 2012 we still won't be able to compete.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | December 20, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Keep him away from a mound as long as possible. Keep him on flat land. The stress is completely different from the mound. God Save the Stras

Posted by: Brue | December 20, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

DavidandD -- Some wild speculation here, but you asked . . .

I would have traded Dunn at the deadline or inked him when his price was at a discount prior to the trade deadline. After Dunn walked, I would have spent on LaRoche, Pena, Konerko or Overbay before I went after Werth. I would have over-paid for De la Rosa, a swing and miss lefty SP who can eat innings and who could be a #2 starter (best any offer by $5M if I had to do so), before I overpaid for an OF, a luxury for this awful club more than a need. And if I had done work like that, when it came time to make the trade for Grienke -- a very rare talent in his prime at the most important position on the field and the club's biggest need -- he may have taken the Nats off of his no trade list the way he did for the Brew Crew.

And if that was not successful, I would try to trade for something less shiny maybe Wandy Rodriguez, Randy Wolf, Derek Lowe or some other No. 2/3 type starter from another club looking to shed some payroll, who can be expceted to throw 200 innings of above average ball and who carries some upside possibility. I'd try to get JJ Putz or Brian Fuentes as Closer insurance and I'd get Keppinger from Houston to be our back-up middle infielder. Or something like that.

It seems so easy to be a GM in this little pretend world we're in here. Real life is a lot different. :-)

Posted by: dfh21 | December 20, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

@skins_fan -- who would you have signed this off-season if you were in Rizzo's shoes? Cliff Lee wasn't ever going to come here. Grienke nixed the trade. It's pretty easy to criticize all the time, but what would you have done differently?Posted by: DavidandDonald1

Thanks for asking. Where to begin?

1. Trade Dunn for pitcher Edwin Jackson (during the season)--shoulda been a no-brainer.
Go hard after Carl Pavano (you got to start somewhere), Jon Garland, solid middle of the rotation pitcher, Joaquin Benoit, Koji (excellent closer for the Os last year) to name a few.
Pitchers, Pitchers, Pitchers. That's how you build a winner.
Trade for Greinke. If you had landed some of the above either this year or last year, maybe Greinke comes.
You can't keep picking up broken pieces and wonder why good players don't come.
Anyone who read me last year knows I went hard at the Nats for not signing Orlando Hudson. Second base turned out to be a travesty the entire year. Why, dumpster- diving for Kennedy.
Enough.
You get the picture.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | December 20, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

PS: Also agree with dfth21 on De La Rosa. Forgot about him. He was there to be had. Overpay and he's yours. Much rather overpay for a good starting pitcher than an aging right fielder.
And I don't mind overpaying for an aging RF as long as you add pitching. But to simply overpay for an outfielder and then to get all giddy and toast yourself for such a great achievement and then to simply fold up shop?
Well that's a disgrace.

Would some1 please tell me who our starting 5 are? And if you say Livan is our ace again..... well......

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | December 20, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

DavidandDonald1, the Werth signing shows that, sometimes, you can convince people with more guaranteed money. That's why we've got Werth wearing a curly-W.

Maybe Dunn doens't fit the Rizzo mold for Plan 2.0. But if we don't end up with a good 1B, wouldn't it have been nice to also have Dunn? Remember, all it takes to sign your own guys is money. They're the cheapest guys to sign. Any reason we couldn't have had Dunn and Werth and maybe another bat? Is Morse a better alternative at 1B? Maybe in terms of "value", but wouldn't Morse and Dunn be better in terms of performance?

Remember Cody Ross in the playoffs last year? We could have had him. He was waived by the Marlins. He's better than Nyjer, better than Maxwell, better than Wee Willie Harris. Maybe better than Bernadnia will ever be. All he cost was money. And as a waiver claim, we had a higher priority than SF, he'd have been ours. All he cost was money.

What about international signings? Twins just landed the NPL batting champ. We got Yunesky Maya. That's pretty much it for the last 3 years. That's pretty lame. Again, internationals only cost money.

There's no salary cap.
We have the richest owner in baseball.
Forbes says our team is regularly among the most profitable in baseball.
Our salary for 2011 is so low now (low $40M's), that relative to 2010 Opening Day salaries, we'd be 28th of 30.

Keep in mind also, Rizzo is the one that said signing a legitimate #1 SP was his number one offseason priority. We didn't put this on Rizzo. He put it on himself. He knew it would cost a lot of money or a lot of talent in return. He knew the FA market was thin. But he knew it was so important he publicly made it his number one offseason priority.

There were free agents to be had if the Nats (Rizzo? Lerner? Who knows) had a strong enough desire (Werth proves that).
Westbrook, Kuroda, Pavano, Garland. There's reasons each of them are not here, but sometimes that can be overcome (Werth proves that).

You can make trades that don't take a lot of prospects, but they take money. Think maybe the Cubs would unload Carlos Zambrano and his huge contract? Maybe the Giants and Zito? Dunno. Maybe none of these are a good idea today, but this is something that happens often in baseball, but never here.

If we miss out on LaRoche and Derrek Lee and Pavano, and enter the season with what we essentially have today, with a payroll that might end up around $45M - would you then say losing Dunn was not a good idea, that we should have upped whatever offers we had out to Vazquez or De la Rosa. Cause we'll be looking 95 loses square in the eye.

The upside would be plenty of cheap tickets available in NatsTown.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 20, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse


The Nationals had a deal for Greinke. He refused to go.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | December 20, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

This was just confirmed by the MLB Network.

Posted by: flynnie321 | December 20, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Lord, Sunderland, don't make me watch or try to root for Carlos Zambrano. Yeccch.

Posted by: flynnie321 | December 20, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

flynnie - Did MLB network confirm that we also offered Greinke a four year extension guaranteeing him $80M?
Hmmm. They didn't. Would Greinke have changed his mind then? We'll never know, will we?
So just cause he said no, and Vazquez said no, and De la Rosa said no doesn't mean we couldn't have landed one or more of them.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 20, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Position wise, I guess the best guess roster shapes up something like this:

Rodriguez
Flores/Ramos

First Baseman (Lee/LaRoche)
Espinosa
Desmond
Zimmerman
Gonzalez (other middle infielder)
Other Infielder/Outfielder (or Stairs?)

Ankiel
Morgan
Werth
Bernadina
Morse

I know the team likes Gonzalez for his defensive prowess, but having a better offensive backup would be great if they could get one. There really are not many decent middle infielders on the market.

But the Nationals do have a lot of 4th/5th starter types. Perhaps one can be flipped for a super sub.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 20, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Lord, Sunderland, don't make me watch or try to root for Carlos Zambrano. Yeccch.

Posted by: flynnie321
**********
He's really good about 25% of the time. Just take yer chances!
Plus, he can rake at the dish.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 20, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

and he doesn't take any lip from his catcher, either.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

There really are not many decent middle infielders on the market.

But the Nationals do have a lot of 4th/5th starter types. Perhaps one can be flipped for a super sub.

Posted by: natbiscuits

I got ripped last year for suggesting Riggleman was killing us by playing Guzman. Now he might need to accept a minor league, non-guaranteed deal.

We could have him, or FLop.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 20, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo is building the team for 2012. He is getting younger, athletic players who can throw hard, play hard and play defense. The pitching will be here in 2012. The middle infield will be settled, the catcher will be established, the center field position will be set by the end of this year. 2011 will be a building year, but it will move in a decidedly positive direction. Crying over the past will get you nothing at this point. If instant gratification is what some of you desire then you have my sympathies.

The brand of baseball that you will see in 2011 will be that of a team that won't have its stars chewing gum and cracking jokes in the dugout when they are losing. You are going to see a team that will finally have leadership, coming from Werth and Desmond. They won't be a team that will by any means be fully formed, but they will start to establish their identity.

The Nats of the past seasons put players in the field that did not have the skills to play their positions. I see that finally coming to an end this year. You are going to see a crisper game of baseball played, you are going to see a more determined and resilient team. 2011 will be the foundation year. I see reasons to believe the glass is half full.

Posted by: driley | December 20, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Willie Harris, Ronnie Belliard, Anderson Hernandez, and Adam Kennedy (in addition to Guzman and FLop). There are plenty of ex Nat infielders on the market, but none I am particularly eager to go another round with. (I still like Willie, but its time to move on).

Earlier in the year there was talk that Miles and Bloomquist were on the shopping list.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 20, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

People have the right to complain about the Nats and Lord knows the Nats have given them reason to... but in every thread? I can't wait until the Nats finally turn it around and they are griping how hard it is to get tickets because you can tell they will find something to yap about.

For season ticket holders, I hate it for you, you see the suffering up close putting your money where your mouth is.

And I love that although Grienke didn't want to come here prople still think if Rizzo tried harder he would have come. Guess that's easy to say because you can't prove that is wrong so to some that makes it a fact. Same for overpaying De la Rosa... as much as we need SP to vastly overpay is a horrid move. The same people would be saying is is a terrible panic move just like they are saying about Werth.

There is no quick fix here.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 20, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm a partial season ticket holder who attends 30 plus games per year. I'd go more if my schedule allowed. No need to feel bad for me. I go, I cheer, I enjoy.

Positive attitude may be rare on this particular blog, but it is much more common in the general public. Please don't let yourself believe the mood in the metro is as bleak as some of the posters here might reflect.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 20, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Sheinen's last line says it all - "However, a more conservative track could put him back on a big league mound for the start of the 2012 season." That's the smart, long-term position for Strasburg, as a player. He burns another option between the 60-DL & the minors in 2011, but hopefully comes back at 100% in 2012.

Projected 2011 W-L results might still look bad right now, but my 'gut' tells me there is still a trade in the wind before Spring Training starts. Possibly something involving Marrero & some bullpen pieces or 'SP prospects' for a #2-3 Starting pitcher.

Just a hunch with long odds, but hoping I'm right.

Posted by: BinM | December 20, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Twitter a buzz with rumors (unsubstantiated) that Pavano will sign with unspecified team tomorrow. Hard to tell whether there is real intelligence that it is the Nats or if it is just speculation.....

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 20, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Man, a lotta love here today. The Nats fill out their bench and AAA roster and get a lotta grief for it.

Can we try to swallow a dose of reality? The Nats dug themselves a huge hole years ago and it's going to take a long time to get out of it. They've screwed up along the way, didn't spend money the right way and now that they appear to want to spend money, some guys are turning them down. Teixeira, De La Rosa, Greinke to name three. Sometimes the other guy says No. It happens.

And BTW, for everyone complaining that they didn't trade a bunch of guys for Greinke or that they didn't trade Dunn for Edwin Jackson, do you really want to trade one or more everyday players for a pitcher who's going to play 30 times a year? That makes sense to you?

Patience, people. It's a good thing.

Posted by: baltova1 | December 20, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

You can have Greinke.He wants to be along for the ride,like Teixiera.They didn't want to be the pieces to get the turnaround started.

Posted by: seanmg | December 20, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Just to be fair to Guz, I don't think there was any evidence that he was a malcontent like FLop. They asked him to play 2B, and he did. They asked to try the OF, and he did (ouch!).
When he was hot, he was REALLY hot at the plate. FLop never was.

Posted by: nats24 | December 21, 2010 12:07 AM | Report abuse

OK, here's some fodder, a way to get a crack at the wildcard for eighty-five million. Sign Lee, Soriano, and Pavano. Then trade for someone affordable both in terms of money and our prospects-say Shields who, despite last year's ERA, is, in my opinion, better than Garza. Or Carmona.( don't think we could get him though, but it'd be worth a try.)

Posted by: jcampbell1 | December 21, 2010 6:03 AM | Report abuse

Maya is looking very good in Dominican Winter League.
4 -1 with a 0.69 ERA
41 K's in 39.0 IP
.164 batting average against

Posted by: Sunderland | December 21, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Sunderland, we've go to get San Pedro de Macoris and Santo Domingo on the schedule in '11. But, seriously. If Maya does pitch like Rizzo and the scouts thought he would, then that will be a huge plus for the rotation. Who knows, maybe the shock of being thrust into ML baseball without a lot of minor league experience was overwhelming last year. I guess we'll see.

Posted by: mojo6 | December 21, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

It ain't quite the same anymore, but I've seen teams take the filed in the DR and the whole infield payed in the All-Star game the previous summer, and the pitcher was a reigning Cy Young winner.

Yeah, Maya did spend a lot of time, about a year IIRC, not pitching to competition. Then 21 innings of minor league ball and welcome to the show!

FYI, MiLB 2010 Washington Nationals Minor League All-Stars.
http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101218&content_id=16345036&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp

Posted by: Sunderland | December 21, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I have more faith in Maya bouncing back then I do in Morgan. Both are wild cards who could change the fortune of the team but I really have no faith in Morgan returning to form and he'll be useless as a bench player (with 25 men you cannot carry a designated bunter); Maya I still have hope that he plays a part in the season.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 21, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I think Werth will help Morgan in the field.

There were some comments from Werth like "we'll make our plays." I can see him coaching Morgan in CF and letting him know which cutoff man to hit and, if he doesn't, letting him know that that's not going to happen again. That is not how a winning team plays.

Maybe a no-nonsense teammate in RF is what Morgan needs.

Posted by: derwink | December 21, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

What Morgan needs is to be 4 years younger. (insert any hard to teach an old dog new tricks story you want in this space)

Posted by: dfh21 | December 21, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I don't know the nuances of baseball well but I've coached a lot and it's amazing what a no-nonsense, I'm-all-about-winning teammate can add to a team. I'm hoping that Werth will be that.

If Morgan's problems are between the ears, that can be corrected unless his IQ is that of a turnip.

Posted by: derwink | December 21, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Ok, so the Nats are likely not landing Brandon Webb (reports re that he's close with the Rangers o na deal). If all the club is willing to do is shop for return from injury potential bargains, then why not kick the tires on Chris Young? At least he had (pre surgery at least) front end stuff.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 21, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Assuming that the source of the above is MLB Trade Rumors, there's an item posted immediately after it saying that Webb is not in Texas and that other teams are still in play.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Assuming that the source of the above is MLB Trade Rumors, there's an item posted immediately after it saying that Webb is not in Texas and that other teams are still in play.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Stupid interface...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Problem with Stras is that he waited to long to get TJ surgery. Over the past couple of years, I've seen HS players getting their arms done.

I think that the previous para is being facetious, but I'm not sure. It's a little bit disturbing.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 21, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, didn't catch the error...too long.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 21, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The Nats of the past seasons put players in the field that did not have the skills to play their positions. I see that finally coming to an end this year. You are going to see a crisper game of baseball played, you are going to see a more determined and resilient team. 2011 will be the foundation year. I see reasons to believe the glass is half full.

Posted by: driley | December 20, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

driley wins at Internet!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | December 21, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Couple of former Nats in this list:

The Blue Jays announced six minor league signings today: outfielder Corey Patterson, righty Winston Abreu, catcher Ryan Budde, lefty Sean Henn, lefty Mike Hinckley, and righty Brian Stokes.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 21, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

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