After throwing only 22 pitches before his start was cut short by a lengthy rain delay, Stephen Strasburg could return to pitch on short rest and take the mound Sunday night against the Mets.
Manager Davey Johnson said he will consider bringing Strasburg back on three days’ rest, provided the right-hander experiences no physical setbacks over the next 48 hours.
“We’ll see how he is tomorrow and the next day, but he could come back Sunday,” Johnson said following Wednesday night’s 4-3 win over the Marlins. “So we’ll just have to see how we get through tomorrow and the next day.”
The Nationals already faced a quandary in choosing a starter for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against New York. It would be Ross Ohlendorf’s regular turn to pitch, but Johnson had plans to move the veteran right-hander (who has appeared to run out of gas by the middle innings in his last two starts) to the bullpen and move rookie Tanner Roark into the rotation.
Strasburg, though, could now be bumped up a day after his abbreviated start on Wednesday. He tossed two quick scoreless innings, retiring six of seven batters faced, and had thrown only 22 total pitches when heavy rain suddenly descended upon Nationals Park (with Strasburg in the batter’s box at the time).
Johnson would have brought Strasburg back had the delay been limited to roughly 45 minutes, but it stretched to 1 hour, 12 minutes, well beyond the threshold the manager would have for any pitcher. Strasburg’s back also tightened up a bit while he tried to stay loose during the delay.
“It was a no-brainer at that point,” Johnson said. “Generally speaking, maximum for me is about an hour. But the fact that he got a little bit stiff in the back, he’s not even going to hit in that situation.”
After the game, Strasburg said he hadn’t considered the possibility of returning to pitch before his next regularly scheduled start, which would come Monday against the Phillies. But he didn’t sound particularly eager to bump that outing up.
“I don’t really know. I can’t answer that right now,” he said. “It’s a good win for us, but I don’t really think it would matter. I think everybody’s healthy and pitching well, so I’d say keep it going.”