Stephen Strasburg is likely to come off the disabled list and start Saturday night against the Rockies, a potential boost to a Nationals rotation that has yet to live up to its sky-high expectations this season.
Though the club hasn’t made an official announcement yet, manager Matt Williams acknowledged that Strasburg is lined up to start the second game of this weekend’s series vs. Colorado.
“We’ve got some options,” Williams said before Thursday’s game against Arizona. “Certainly his day falls Saturday. But he’ll go out and do his drills today and be sure. We’ll have a better idea after he’s done with that. He felt OK coming out of [Tuesday’s] bullpen, so we have to make sure that he’s good today and then we can decide for sure. But his day certainly falls on Saturday.”
Strasburg has been out since July 4, when a strained left oblique muscle landed him on the DL for the second time this season. (He sat out earlier with a neck strain.) Overall, he sports a 5.16 ERA in 13 starts this year, but he offered ample reason for optimism during his brief time between DL stints, allowing only two runs in 15 2/3 innings while striking out 18 batters.
Strasburg also impressed during a rehab start for Class AAA Syracuse on Monday, striking out 11 without walking a batter during 5 2/3 innings that included 85 pitches.
The more-pressing question for the Nationals now is who to remove from the rotation with Strasburg ready to return. If he starts Saturday, he’d be taking Doug Fister’s turn, but the struggling veteran easily could be bumped back a day and start Sunday, with everyone else in the rotation doing likewise.
Joe Ross, who starts Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, could be demoted to the minors after this outing, with the organization looking to limit the 22-year-old’s workload and innings count.
“Once we have an idea on Stras for sure, we’ll be able to make adjustments with everybody else,” Williams said. “But as of right now, we haven’t made that decision. That’ll probably happen after today. That’s where we’re at right now.”