Thursday, August 5, 2010 8:58pm
By Mark Zuckerman
PHOENIX -- Stephen Strasburg faced live hitters Thursday for the first time in two weeks, and emerged from his simulated game confident he can rejoin the Washington Nationals' rotation Tuesday against the Florida Marlins.
Strasburg threw 43 pitches over two innings, facing nine batters, and reported no problems with his right shoulder. He threw all three of his pitches -- fastball, curveball and changeup -- under a scorching Arizona sun; with the roof open at Chase Field at 1:30 p.m. local time, the temperature registered 106 degrees.
Barring any setbacks over the weekend -- Strasburg will throw one more bullpen session Saturday in Los Angeles -- the rookie ace is confident hell come off the disabled list Tuesday and pick up where he left off.
Yeah, absolutely, he said. Its been getting stronger every single day. Im sticking with the program, sticking with the routine. Im doing everything I have to do to get back on the mound. Im making good strides.
Strasburgs opposition for the simulated game was a tandem of teammates: Justin Maxwell and Willie Harris. Each managed to collect one hit off the flamethrower, with Maxwell lining a single to left and Harris blooping a broken-bat single to right that left the utilityman raising his left arm in triumph and joining Maxwell in a little dance.
Thats Willie, Strasburg said laughing. He was talking a little smack beforehand. Its all good.
For the most part, Strasburg had his way with Maxwell and Harris. He struck out each batter twice, and had both teammates muttering to themselves about his dominating repertoire of pitches.
I think hes ready, Maxwell said. Hes got good stuff. Im glad hes on our team.
Strasburg, who was a last-minute scratch from his scheduled July 27 start against the Atlanta Braves, said he hasnt experienced any shoulder discomfort since about two days after that aborted outing. The time off, though, left him a tad rusty. He wasnt as sharp as he would have liked to be Thursday during the simulated game.
My mechanics were a little out of sync, he said. But thats to be expected, not having a batter stand in there for those two weeks.
Manager Jim Riggleman actually found himself pleased by Strasburgs rustiness, pointing out that it could signal the pitcher is no longer concerned with the state of his shoulder.
Im almost encouraged that hes frustrated with his mechanics, because that means he knows hes a work in progress, and he knows when he goes out and does his bullpen on Saturday, its not just to get his arm loose, Riggleman said. Its to work on things and fine-tune. Hes a great worker, so I know hes going to be very good with his bullpen on Saturday and be ready to pitch Tuesday.
Nationals note: Jason Marquis also is ready to return from the DL; Riggleman said the veteran right-hander will start Sunday against the Dodgers after missing 3 12 months following surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Marquis, who signed a two-year, 15 million contract last winter to serve as a stabilizing force in Washingtons rotation, made only three April starts and posted a 20.52 ERA before acknowledging pain in his elbow.
Mark Zuckerman covered the Nationals for The Washington Times from 2005-09. In addition to regular work this season for CSNwashington.com, he also covers the team at www.natsinsider.com. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.