Strasburg and Ross Update Time:
Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on this past Wednesday’s show that rehabbing starters Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross were eager for a chance to get out of West Palm Beach, Florida and off to an affiliate to start making rehab starts on the way back to the majors.
When they’re ready, they’ll be back, Rizzo said, regardless of what’s going on with the team, which has struggled throughout the first two months of the year, and started this weekend’s series in Milwaukee 13 games under .500 after 39 games.
The question, paraphrased for brevity’s sake, was whether there was any scenario in which it might make more sense to just allow a pitcher like Strasburg or Ross to build back up for the rest of the year with an eye on 2023 if there were any issues or setbacks as they work to get back to the majors, since the team doesn’t look like it’s going to compete right now...
“When athletes and players, pitchers are healthy, they’re going to pitch,” Rizzo stated firmly.
“That’s what they do for a living, that’s what they get paid for, so when we deem Joe Ross and Stras and anybody else that’s on the [IL], which is a long list of guys, when we deem them ready to participate in the big leagues and to help us in the big leagues, they’ll be brought up just like in any other season because that’s what we do. That’s what these guys get paid for, and that’s what they want to do. I think that a healthy player, a healthy pitcher, if you wanted to hold them back through the year they wouldn’t let you because they’re healthy and they pitch for a living and they’re competitors and that’s what they want to do.”
Right now both starters are on the same schedule, throwing sim games in West Palm Beach as they build arm strength and endurance with an eye on rehab starts in the minors soon...-ish...
“I think that we’ve got a calendar put in place for all of our pitchers,” Rizzo said, “Stras and Joe Ross specifically, that we’re going to build them up to a point where they’ll soon be going to an affiliate to do rehab starts. I’m not sure exactly where they’re at. I know right now the last time out they threw two innings of a simulated game.
“Now obviously a simulated game is not the same as a minor league rehab game because it’s less competitive and that type of thing, but they’re making progress, which is the important thing and we’re seeing the light at the end where we could soon see these guys go on a rehab assignment and then obviously eventually get here and pitch for us in D.C.”
Both pitchers took another step on Friday, throwing 43 pitches each in three innings in a sim game. Now the next step could be those rehab starts.
“They threw 43 pitches, three innings,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters in Milwaukee before the series opener with the Brewers last night, “and they came out of it feeling good, so — [they’ve] got a side tomorrow, and then [they will] be back out there and hopefully get [them] four innings, 60 pitches, and then we’ll go from there.”
After they each throw tomorrow, Martinez said, “... there’s a good chance we might send them both out for a rehab assignment, so we’ll know more about that tomorrow.”
Martinez said he was excited to see both starters making progress and having an influence on the other pitchers and players working down in West Palm Beach.
“I’m really excited about it, but I know those two guys are very excited about it, because they’re doing well. We can’t wait to get them back, you know. But like I’ve said, when they come back, we want them back for the duration, but they’ve worked really hard to get back, both of them did. So I’m very proud of what they’ve done. I know it’s tough, it’s tough when you have those injuries and you’re in Florida, but the end is coming. Hopefully, the both of them will be here sometime in the near future. But like I said, as of right now, they’re both doing well.”
“Everybody I’ve talked to said they’re engaged every day,” the manager added.
“They’re getting in there and getting all their work done, and they’ve been very good influences to the young players as well, which is awesome.”
Since he was discussing rehabbing players before last night’s game, reporters asked if the club had any new info on Will Harris or anyone else throwing in West Palm Beach.
Harris underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last season, and he’s working his way back after struggling in the first two years of his 3-year/$24M deal in D.C.
“Will went back to Florida so he’s throwing 60 feet. I know Hunter Harvey is throwing, he’s throwing bullpens up to 20 pitches, so that’s encouraging. The only bad news that I have is that [Carter] Kieboom is going to have UCL surgery, so he’s going to have Tommy John surgery, so that’s kind of a blow to us, yeah.”
We wrote about the Kieboom news at length in another article last night (which we’re going to hopefully remember to link to here before this posts. Update: We remembered!), but Martinez did discuss when the club expects their 24-year-old infielder will be back at it after TJS. Kieboom was shut down early this spring with what was diagnosed as a flexor mass strain, and they hoped rest and rehab would get him back on the field, but it didn’t work out. He started throwing again and the pain returned.
“Yeah, we’re hoping that he is definitely ready by Spring Training. It’s a little bit different for a position player, so if everything goes well, I hope that he’s back for the first part of Spring Training,” Martinez said on Friday.