Stephen Strasburg took the hill for a rehab start at Single-A Hagerstown on Sunday, just 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery. The 23-year-old right-hander wasn't perfect, but the results were certainly encouraging. Strasburg recorded four Ks in 1.2 innings, throwing 25 of his 31 pitches for strikes. Video here via Nats Enquirer. He allowed three hits, including an opposite-field solo homer, and his fastball topped out at 98 mph. His final pitch of the day was a change-up clocked at 88 mph.
"Obviously," he later said, "my goal is to pitch in the big leagues in September."
Perhaps there's an argument for giving Strasburg, say, one or two additional proof-of-concept starts in the minors, then shutting him down. But that's clearly not the path he prefers, nor is it the path the Nats intend to take.
Strasburg is available in 69 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues at the moment, and he's clearly a decent stash for the head-to-head playoffs. There's a legit chance that he'll make a cameo appearance in the final weeks. Here's the tentative rehab schedule, from MLB.com:
Strasburg could make as many as five more rehabilitation starts for the Nationals' affiliates on Aug. 12, 17, 22, two others in the final week of August and early September. He then could be added to the Nationals' active roster.
Strasburg could take the rotation spot vacated by Jordan Zimmermann once he goes over his allotted 160-inning limit this season.
Sounds like a plan.
The slightest hint of elbow discomfort could derail this thing, of course. And there's little chance Strasburg will work deep into games if/when he makes it back. Still, any innings he can give us in 2011 are appreciated, because they'll no doubt be of the highest quality. He's an ideal player to attach to trade offers, too, if you're looking for a bigger score. Make the add if he's unowned. The risks are minimal, the potential payoff significant.
Photo via AP Images