Dusty Baker all but confirmed the fact that right-hander Stephen Strasburg will return to Washington’s rotation tomorrow night his hometown of San Diego when the skipper spoke to reporters before the series opener with the Padres in Petco Park.
Asked if the Nationals’ 29-year-old starter was ready to return from the Disabled List, Baker said he thought Strasburg was good to go.
“Right now, he is. I’ll let you know Saturday,” Baker said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
After his rehab start for the High-A Potomac Nationals this week, Strasburg, who has been on the DL since July 24th while dealing with a right elbow nerve impingement, told reporters that he’s felt fine for a while now, but he’s been held back.
“I felt like I was ready to come back before this,” Strasburg explained, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.
“But they wanted to be conservative, so hopefully this was enough.”
Told Strasburg sounded frustrated that he’d been held out this long, GM Mike Rizzo, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, said that might not be such a bad thing.
“I love when Stras is surly, man, because that means he’s fired up and ready to go, so a surly Strasburg is good with me. I love it,” Rizzo said.
“He wants to pitch, he wants the ball, he always did, he always does, he always will. We have to [stay] the course with our protocols and that type of thing, with Stras and with anybody else. Mad Max [Scherzer] was the same way, he did not want to miss the one start that we skipped him and pushed him back, he was totally fine, he said.
“And we said all along with Stephen that if it was a one-game lead in September, he would have continued to pitch, because he was capable of pitching, but we played well enough to allow ourselves to have a little cushion, and not that we’re taking anything for granted, but you have to look at the entire landscape of where you’re at, where the organization is, what the standings are, what the roster looks like, and make plans and decisions accordingly, and that was the decision I made, and I’ve made some unpopular decisions in the past, and that’s my job.”
One of those unpopular decisions he referred to, of course, was the decision to shut Stephen Strasburg down back in 2012, (as the Nationals had planned to that whole season), after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010.
While the Nationals have reached the postseason in three of the past five years, Strasburg, who sat out in 2012, and missed out on the NLDS last season when he suffered a torn pronator tendon in his right arm, has only made one postseason appearance over that stretch, in the NLDS in 2014.
The decision to put him on the DL with right elbow soreness last August didn’t work out, as he returned in September to make one start before he was shut down.
He did work to try to be available if the Nationals advanced beyond the NLDS, but in the end it didn’t look like he would have been able to return.
If keeping him out of the rotation for a month this time around allows him to rejoin the rotation for the stretch run and (assuming they make it) postseason, will it have been worth it in the end?