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Washington Nationals’ 2023 Rotation: Stephen Strasburg talk at Winter Meetings

Stephen Strasburg has not yet started throwing again according to GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez...

Washington Nationals v. Miami Marlins Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Talking with reporters at the 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego, CA last week, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said the same things he’d said back in October when it comes to the Nats’ needs this offseason.

“Hasn’t changed,” Rizzo explained. “Still we think starting pitching is something that we’re looking for and possibly another offensive player would be great.”

Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office did sign two bats they think could help, with infielder Jeimer Candelario and outfielder Stone Garrett joining the organization, but they’re hardly done this winter according to the GM.

“We have added a couple of offensive players on the roster, so we’re looking forward to see what they could do for us,” Rizzo said, “and we think that — we’re certainly not finished because of the two additions we made, but we’re comfortable that those two guys should help us.”

Starting pitching was still a clear need, however, the GM said.

“We’ve got some starters already in our rotation,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters when asked about the pitching depth in his own press availability at the Winter Meetings last week, “... but we don’t feel like we have enough.

“As the season goes along, things happen. We do need, especially if we can get another veteran starter, it will be great. One or two.”

Patrick Corbin, Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, and Cade Cavalli are all expected to be part of the rotation (if healthy), but the GM and the manager in D.C. both agreed they still needed to add more pitching.

“I talked to [Rizzo] about it, and as you guys know, I truly believe in starting pitching, and that’s what we’re looking to do right now,” Martinez explained.

“Right now we’re looking at a lot of different options, a lot of different guys,” the manager added.

“Definitely want a guy that we know that could give us some innings. We need a guy that could give us 160 to 180 innings, and those are the guys we’re looking at right now.”

On Friday, the Nationals signed veteran pitcher Trevor Williams to a 2-year deal. Will he be part of the 2023 rotation? A swing-man out of the bullpen? He should help either way. But they still need more pitching, right?

Unfortunately, at this point, the Nationals can’t count on one of the pitchers already in the organization.

Stephen Strasburg, who is still rehabbing following a setback in his return from surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, is still a (or an expensive) question mark for the 2023 Nationals.

In the last three seasons, after helping the Nats win the first World Series by a D.C.-based team since 1924, and signing a 7-year/$245M free agent deal after briefly testing free agency, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick has made just eight starts and has thrown just 31 1⁄3 innings in the majors, and he’s still working to get back on the mound, and the club doesn’t want to add any pressure for the now-34-year-old starter.

“I’m not going to put any more pressure on Strasburg,” Martinez said.

“I know he’s rehabbing right now. He’s progressing. When he’s ready and we deem he’s ready, it’s going to be awesome to see him out on that mound. I promise the fans that, when he does step on the mound, it will be at home. When he does that, we’ll start him at home.”

Strasburg’s one start this past season came on the road in Miami, but he suffered a setback during his between-starts work, and hasn’t been throwing since.

At this point, however, the Nationals just want to see Strasburg healthy before the team or the starter worry about anything else.

“He’s got to pitch. He’s got to get on the mound every five days consistently before we deem that he’s going to be — that he can help us. And honestly, it’s more for him than anything else,” the Nats’ manager said.

“We want him to succeed regardless of what — you’ve got to remember, this guy for so many years, he was one of the best in baseball, and he’s gone through some troubles because of injuries.

“When he comes back, I want him to come back fully healthy. I want him to go down and pitch as much as he needs to pitch to get back up here. I’m not going to say he’s going to be the guy that he was six, seven years ago, but Stephen Strasburg is a competitor. He’s going to compete. And that’s what he does really well.

“When we get him back, it will be like signing that free agent that we were looking to sign, and we’ll all be happy when he does come back.”

It’s when/if, of course, at this point.

“I think Davey filled you guys in when you spoke to him last,” Rizzo said when he too was asked for an update on the right-hander. “He’s not doing anything off the mound yet, but he’s progressing to get it to that point.”

Rizzo too stressed that they’ll wait for the 2019 World Series MVP to be healthy and ready to return to the mound, and he did not offer any guess as to when Strasburg will get back on the hill.

Washington Nationals v. Miami Marlins Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“We’re not putting any timetables or any mileposts that he has to pass,” Rizzo said.

“We’re going to be very cautious with him and just make sure that when he does get back he feels good about himself and until then we’re just going to rehab him and watch his progress.”

“He’s coming along,” Martinez said. “He’s progressing. He’s not throwing yet, but he’s definitely gaining a lot more strength. So for me that’s a good sign.”

But to this point (and since he last threw in the aftermath of his return), he hasn’t resumed throwing at all?

“I do not believe he’s throwing,” Rizzo said. “He’s strengthening and stretching.”