WASHINGTON (AP) -- Injured Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg would not be able to pitch in the NL Championship Series if Washington were to advance.
''We know he's not going to be ready for the next series. You know, he's progressing as well as we'd like. It's never as fast as you'd like,'' Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Thursday before his club hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers in a win-or-go-home Game 5 of their NL Division Series.
''But again, he won't be available for the next series,'' Baker continued. ''It would be a miracle if he was.''
That doesn't really come as a surprise, given that Strasburg has been sidelined since hurting his pitching elbow in early September and cut short a bullpen session Tuesday.
The Nationals knew the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft would have to miss the NLDS, but they had been hoping he might become available if the NL East champions extended their postseason stay.
''You look at the calendar and just the math doesn't work out. He's not stretched out and prepared to take on such an important game,'' general manager Mike Rizzo said about the possibility of an NLCS appearance for Strasburg. ''Nothing's changed. He's still on his return-to-throw program. We're trying to build him up to see where he's at. We're certainly not going to rush him into doing something that he's incapable of doing.''
Strasburg threw his first bullpen session from a mound last week, exactly a month after his last regular-season appearance, then stopped another session a few pitches early because of what Baker said was discomfort in Strasburg's elbow.
Strasburg famously missed Washington's trip to the playoffs in 2012, when the club shut him down that September to protect his surgically repaired right elbow. He had Tommy John surgery in August 2011.
This season, he started 13-0 with a 2.51 ERA, and in the midst of that stretch signed a $175 million, seven-year contract that begins in 2017. He went on the DL with elbow soreness in August after allowing 19 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings over three outings, then left his first start back in the third inning and hasn't pitched since. Strasburg's final stats: 15-4 with a 3.60 ERA and 183 strikeouts in only 147 2/3 innings.