The Washington Nationals have been playing their best baseball of the season, winning 13 of their last 16 games. And, this entire hot streak has been done with star pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the Injured List.
However, according to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, there's a chance that the 2019 World Series MVP returns "in the not too distant future."
"Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we get him back in the rotation," Rizzo said on the Sports Junkies. "He'll be a huge lift for us and he'll be a great deadline acquisition for us if we can get Stras back."
Strasburg has been sidelined since June 1, when he was forced to leave his start against the Braves in just the second inning with a neck strain. This is Strasburg's second extended stint on the Injured List this season with issues in his neck and shoulder area.
The good news for Nationals fans is that Rizzo said Strasburg has begun to throw bullpen sessions, meaning he's back throwing on the mound and on the track to returning.
"Strasburg is beginning to throw bullpens. So he's on the mound and I think he's got another bullpen scheduled in the next couple of days," Rizzo said. "He threw one earlier this week. Those are all good signs that he's on the road to recovery."
The Nationals GM also said that before Strasburg returns to the rotation, he'll be sent to the minor leagues for at least one rehab start, due to how long he's been sidelined by the injury.
Strasburg is far from the only arm the Nationals have on the Injured List, either. Relievers Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan are all injured, too. Plus, starter Erick Fedde was just placed on the IL earlier this week.
Rizzo said that Hudson has begun to throw bullpen sessions and is on track to returning, but the team plans to be careful with Rainey since he has a lower leg injury.
It's been a 'next man up' mentality for the Nationals, who have seen unexpected arms emerge from the bullpen to help the ballclub win games.
"Tip your cap to the bullpen. These guys have been used quite a bit," Rizzo said. "We've gone through a lot of injuries. The depth on this roster has been amazing."
Much of the credit should be directed towards Brad Hand, who has been one of the best closers in baseball as of late. He's converted on 18-of-20 save opportunities and has been thrown in some challenging situations for Washington where he's been asked to get as many as five outs.
"This guy is a pro," Rizzo said. "[He] deserves to be in an All-Star game and is pitching terrific right now."