NEW YORK -- Forced to endure long stretches without several key contributors, the Nationals are mapping out returns for two of their most important players. Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg both took significant steps forward in their recoveries on Thursday ahead of Washington's four-game series against the Mets at Citi
NEW YORK -- Forced to endure long stretches without several key contributors, the Nationals are mapping out returns for two of their most important players. Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg both took significant steps forward in their recoveries on Thursday ahead of Washington's four-game series against the Mets at Citi Field. Both are expected back shortly after the All-Star break.
Zimmerman, who has been out for more than two months, tested his right oblique with fielding drills, the first time he's done so since landing on the DL on May 10. Zimmerman plans to "ramp up" his running over the next two days, and if all goes well, he will begin a rehab assignment on Monday. Zimmerman plans to play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for an undetermined Minor League affiliate, and he hopes to be activated July 20, when the Nats open the second half against the Braves.
"That's the plan," manager Dave Martinez said. "He probably could have been out rehabbing already. … He hasn't been because [the lower levels] are on their All-Star breaks."
Out since June 10 with shoulder inflammation, Strasburg completed a bullpen session that served as a followup to his 57-pitch rehab start at Class A Advanced Potomac on Tuesday. He reported no pain, and he is now scheduled to return to Potomac for a second rehab start on Sunday. Martinez said Strasburg will stretch out to 85 pitches in the outing, which could preclude his return to the rotation.
Nationals starters own a 6.29 ERA since June 9, the day after Strasburg last pitched. He would be in line to start next Friday, when Zimmerman plans to return against the Braves.
The right-hander was 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 13 starts before the injury. Zimmerman started slow after his resurgent 2017, hitting .217/.280/.409 with five home runs in 33 games. He has taken on-field batting practice for more than a week.
"Running is the final thing, because I've had to take so much time off," Zimmerman said. "Would it be great to have a month of at-bats? Yeah, but also sometimes when you come back, you almost keep things simple. You just go out there and try to hit the ball. It's crazy, sometimes you play better when you just simplify it."
• After three stints in the Majors this season without an appearance, Austin Voth's big league debut is imminent. The right-hander -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Nationals' No. 23 prospect -- is scheduled to start Saturday against the Mets at Citi Field in front of family and friends, who have spent a chunk of this season following Voth -- but have yet to see him pitch.
"This last time I basically told [my family], unless I'm starting, you guys are staying home," said Voth.
As a 40-man roster member with options, Voth has literally experienced an up-and-down-year. That he's accumulated so much service time without actually appearing in a game has made him the target of some light clubhouse ribbing.
"[My teammates] have been [teasing me] for being here for so long and not pitching," Voth said. "Now that I finally get able to pitch, they don't need to get on me about that."
The 26-year-old right-hander rebounded from a rough 2017 to go 4-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 15 starts this year at Triple-A Syracuse. He will be the 23rd pitcher used by the Nationals so far this season. They used 24 last season.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.