WASHINGTON -- The Nationals held their second simulated game this week at Nationals Park on Friday afternoon. Stephen Strasburg climbed atop the mound here to take the most significant step yet in his recovery from right shoulder inflammation.He threw 50 pitches as he simulated two innings of work, sitting down
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals held their second simulated game this week at Nationals Park on Friday afternoon. Stephen Strasburg climbed atop the mound here to take the most significant step yet in his recovery from right shoulder inflammation.
He threw 50 pitches as he simulated two innings of work, sitting down between reps to get used to the break when his team is on offense. Strasburg is on track to begin a Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday and return after the All-Star break.
"Very encouraging," manager Dave Martinez said. "He looked real good."
Martinez watched Strasburg and right-hander Joe Ross throw the simulated game closely in a crowd that included general manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.
Strasburg will likely make two rehab starts -- tentatively Tuesday and then one more before the team heads into the All-Star break. Martinez said on Thursday the Nats are targeting a return after the break for Strasburg, and it appears they could line him up to pitch in a crucial series against the National League East-leading Braves in the first series of the second half (July 20-22).
Ross aiming to return this season
Strasburg was not the only pitcher working in Friday's simulated game, as Ross threw 25 pitches in an inning in his first time facing hitters since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Ross has thrown a few bullpen sessions during his rehab at the team's complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., and he rejoined the team in Washington for this week's homestand.
Ross said his goal is to help the Nationals in some capacity this season.
"Just to pitch in general, I'd obviously like to start, but we have a pretty good staff. But wherever I can fit in," Ross said. "Especially in September, hopefully with the expanded roster, as long as I can get out there and hopefully just throw some innings, I'll be happy. That's really what I'm working toward."
Martinez said he was "tickled" by watching Ross throw in the simulated game.
"He's got that Ross family slider," Martinez said. "He faced us [as a bench coach for the Cubs] and he was nasty. I remember hitters coming back and saying he's throwing a bowling ball up there with the two-seamer. His slider, they called it invisible.
"So, I'm just glad to see him pitching again and off the mound and doing so well. He's very excited to come back and help us win ballgames."
• With a virus going around the Nationals' clubhouse that has already got right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and catcher Spencer Kieboom sick, the team bleached the clubhouse this week in attempts to disinfect it and stop the disease from spreading.
"I was scared to breathe in there," Martinez joked.
• Matt Wieters will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday at Double-A Harrisburg.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.