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Strasburg sharp in 5-inning rehab start

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Strasburg sharp in 5-inning rehab start

Updated at 6:23 p.m.

Stephen Strasburg completed a strong, 5-inning rehab start at Class AA Harrisburg on Wednesday afternoon, leaving the Nationals to decide whether their enigmatic right-hander is ready to come off the disabled list now or whether he still needs more fine tuning.

Strasburg allowed two runs (only one earned) over five innings for Harrisburg, holding the Richmond Flying Squirrels to four hits while striking out six without issuing a walk. He threw 71 pitches, 48 of them for strikes, with a fastball that registered 95-97 mph. Cleared to go up to 80 total pitches, he wrapped up his afternoon by throwing nine more in the bullpen.

"Really, he had another inning in the bullpen, albeit a short inning," manager Matt Williams said. "He went back down to the bullpen and threw nine more, to give him 80. So he really had six times up and came out of it feeling fine. We'll see where he recovers to tomorrow and his next bullpen and see where he's at, but it was a good outing for him."

On the 15-day disabled list since May 30 with a strained left trapezius muscle, Strasburg was back throwing within a matter of days. He faced teammates during a 60-pitch simulated game Friday in Milwaukee, then ramped up a bit more Wednesday in his first rehab start.

Strasburg retired the first seven batters he faced in Harrisburg, striking out a pair and allowing only one ball to leave the infield, before giving up a run in the top of the third on a groundball single and an RBI double that glanced off center fielder Derrick Robinson's glove. He gave up an unearned run in the fourth after third baseman Matt Skole threw a ball away, with a couple more groundball singles following the error. He then finished his afternoon on a high note, retiring the side in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout.

Because he hasn't missed much time and has already built his arm up to the point he should be able to approach 100 pitches the next time he takes the mound, Strasburg could be deemed ready to come off the DL and rejoin the Nationals rotation early next week.

"It's a possibility, yeah," Williams said. "We have to see how he is feeling after today and how he gets through his bullpen, which won't be for a couple more days. But after that, if he feels good to go, his pitch count is such that it would be his final spring training pitch count anyways in anticipation of start No. 1 for the season, at 80 or 85 pitches anyway. So he would be good to 100-ish for the next start. So if he feels good, there's no reason why we wouldn't think about that."

It remains to be seen where exactly Strasburg would slot into the Nationals' rotation, which remains up in the air itself for the next few days. The club hasn't announced who will start any games during this weekend's series against the Pirates, though Williams suggested Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross would pitch in some order. Tanner Roark could pitch on Sunday on normal rest, if needed.

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Nationals-Phillies postponed on Monday night

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Nationals-Phillies postponed on Monday night

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper came back to the District on Monday. No baseball was played.

Rain storms cycled through the DMV starting around 6 p.m. at first delaying the series-opening game between the Nationals and Phillies, before it was finally postponed at 10 p.m. The game will be made up as part of a split-doubleheader on Wednesday. The first game is at 1:05 p.m., the second at 7:05 p.m.

The Tuesday starters for both teams remain the same: Patrick Corbin for the Nationals and Jake Arrieta for the Phillies.

Washington will need an extra starter during the week because it is playing seven games in six days. For instance, the Nationals could call someone up to pitch the first game Wednesday, and have Max Scherzer pitch on regular rest Wednesday night. The doubleheader being played Wednesday instead of Tuesday allows the Nationals plenty of time to import a starter for the day, if they choose to do it then.

However, Tuesday’s forecast is also rain-filled. Stay tuned.

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge may still be years away from the majors, but as the Nationals' 2019 first round pick toured the team's ballpark for the first time on Monday, he sure looked the part as a big leaguer.

At 6-foot-8, Rutledge towers over everyone currently on the Nationals' roster. He's got prototypical pitcher size with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

Like any pitcher recently drafted, no matter the round, there is a good chance Nationals fans will not hear Rutledge's name again for quite some time, if they hear it again at all.

In the previous eight years, the team used their first pick in the draft on a pitcher six times. Only two of them - Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde - have pitched in a Nationals uniform, and only Fedde is currently on their roster.

Rutledge, 20, will begin his journey with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He heads there on Friday, hoping it will not be long before he is back in Washington.

"This is my first time in D.C.," Rutledge said. "Amazing stadium."

Rutledge signed his first contract with the Nationals on Monday and passed a physical in the morning. In the afternoon, he walked around the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, introducing himself to manager Davey Martinez and players who could be his future teammates.

Rutledge has said in various interviews since being drafted earlier this month that he looks forward to playing with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals' three ace starters. 

This was his first glimpse at them in-person.

"Meeting all the big league guys was really cool," he said. "I just want to be one of those guys that has that success."

If there was any impression Rutledge left on Monday, beyond his height, it was his eagerness to learn. He cited several of his mentors over the years, former big leaguers like Andy Benes who coached him in summer ball and Woody Williams, an assistant coach at San Jacinto Community College. He mentioned Tom Arrington, head coach at San Jacinto, and his attention to detail.

Rutledge even had praise for Ross Detwiler, a former Nationals pitcher whom they took in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He explained how Detwiler taught him a changeup grip during an offseason workout that he has continued to use.

Those are the people, he says, who helped him arrive at this unexpected place in his life as a first-round draft pick.

"If you asked me a year and a half ago where I would be, I probably wouldn't say the first round. It worked out really well because of how hard I worked," Rutledge said.

His college numbers were certainly impressive. Rutledge held a 0.87 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a freshman at Arkansas before transferring, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.

Rutledge is now looking forward to taking the next steps in his development. He said working on his curveball and changeup will be the focus while he's in the GCL. He wants to add weight and muscle to prepare for next year, his first full pro season. 

Assuming he does someday return to Washington as a big league pitcher, Rutledge said to expect a guy who likes to work fast but without a lot of emotion.

"When things are going well, I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I'm setting the game at my own pace and hitters feel uncomfortable because of that," he said. 

"I'm not a guy that's going to get up and start yelling and give energy like that, I'm more of a consistent kind of flat body language sort of guy."

Nationals fans will hope to get to know him better someday. For now, it's down to the minors to learn the ropes as a prospect.

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