Davey Martinez didn’t want to commit to anything until Stephen Strasburg went through his between-starts routine, and said he was good to go for his fourth start of the year, following a long rehab process which began when he had surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome after making just five starts in the majors last season.
Strasburg made three rehab starts, two with Single-A Fredericksburg and one with Triple-A Rochester, posting a 1.98 ERA (3 ER in 13 2⁄3 IP), and getting to that six-inning, 100-ish pitch plateau the club wanted him to reach before they’d consider him ready to return to the big leagues.
“He’s gonna throw a bullpen here in the next day,” Martinez told reporters before the series finale in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, “and we’ll see where he’s at and then we’ll have a conversation after the bullpen.
“But so far, everything looks good. So, I don’t want to make any decisions yet until he throws his bullpen and we go from there.”
Once he got through the between-starts bullpen without any issues?
“We talked in Cincinnati. We wanted him to get through his last bullpen, I said, ‘Tell me your thoughts.’ And he told me, ‘I’m ready to pitch this week,’” Martinez said before the opener with Miami on Tuesday night. Joan Adon got the nod in the first of three, and Josiah Gray’s got the second game. “So we penciled [Strasburg] in for Thursday,” Martinez added.
The fifth-year skipper also said he was excited for Strasburg, who’s made just seven starts in the majors since 2019, when he helped the club that drafted him No. 1 overall in ‘09 win the first World Series by a D.C.-based team since 1924. Strasburg signed a 7-year/$245M deal in the aftermath of his WS MVP nod, but he’s been limited by injuries since, so the work he did to get to this point impressed his manager.
“I told him for what it’s worth, I’m proud of you,” Martinez said.
“I know this has been a difficult time for you, but you worked your butt off to get back. Just go out there and have fun.”
Strasburg, the manager said, is excited to take the next step.
“He’s excited. I know we’re excited to have him back. So he’ll be on the mound Thursday.”
How long a leash will the 33-year-old, 12-year veteran get the first time out Nationals’ rotation?
“I’m not going to put any limitations on him. We’ll see how far we can take him,” Martinez said. We’ll see how far we can take him. We’ll keep a close eye on him, but this is one of the reasons we wanted him to go through what he did, to make sure he’s fully ready. His last outing, I know he threw like 83 pitches in six innings, but my biggest thing is to watch his high-leverage, see what he’s going through, see how many pitches he throws each inning and then we’ll go from there.”
What did the club see from Strasburg in his rehab outings that convinced them he’s ready to return to the majors?
“It was a combination of everything, but my biggest thing was his mechanics. And honing in on his mechanics a little bit, and his last two outings they were really, really sharp, and he was able to get back to where we felt like he was prior. Made some adjustments, but we felt like, hey, he can get back, if something goes awry, then the next pitch he figured it out and he got right back on there and threw strikes. He was good. The last two outings he was very good.”