The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg is set to make his season debut on Thursday

The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg is set to make his season debut on Thursday

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Stephen Strasburg will face the Miami Marlins at LoanDepot Park on Thursday, Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez announced ahead of Tuesday’s game. It will be Strasbourg’s first major league appearance since undergoing season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in July. His last outing for the Nationals was on June 1, 2021.

“He’s our guy,” Martinez said of Strasbourg, who was cleared to start after feeling good during a penalty box session on Monday. “Everyone knows that. So it’ll be a little uplifting for the guys knowing he’s kicking off on Thursday.

Strasbourg, 33, has only pitched 26⅔ innings since signing a seven-year, $245 million contract in December 2019. To give that number some context, he pitched 36⅓ innings during the 2019 title race en route to being named World Series MVP. But with each injury and procedure, the Nationals have remained patient, saying they would rather have Strasbourg in the long term than rush it.

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Martinez said in March he hoped Strasbourg would make between 20 and 25 starts this season. The expected return from Strasbourg on Thursday puts him for around 20 years, if he remains healthy for the rest of the year. And while that’s still a big if, an on-time finish — or at least a relatively on-time finish — will be a bright spot in what has mostly been an abysmal season for Washington.

Washington enters Tuesday’s series opener 21-35 and in last place in the National League East. The rotation for this series will be Joan Adon, Josiah Gray and Strasbourg.

“I’m not going to put a limit on it. We’ll see how far we can take him,” Martinez said. “We will keep an eye on him. But that’s one of the reasons we wanted him to go through what he’s done to make sure he’s fully prepared. … My biggest thing is watching its high leverage [pitches]see what he goes through, see how many pitches he throws each inning, and then we’ll go from there.

Before meeting the Nationals in Cincinnati last weekend, Strasburg found a rhythm with class AAA Rochester. In his third appearance in rehab (and his first with Rochester), the right-hander allowed one hit and one walk and struck out four in six innings. His fastball sat in the 90s and hit 93 mph, according to reports. Most important, however, was that Strasbourg completed six innings without shoulder or neck pain.

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If Washington wanted to keep Strasbourg on a standard schedule — four days off, pitching the fifth — he would have faced the Marlins on Wednesday. But before the week even started, Martinez announced Adon and Gray as his starters on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving Thursday as a noisy TBD before confirming Tuesday that it would be Strasbourg. That means Evan Lee, a southpaw who made his debut against the New York Mets on June 1, will stay as a long man in the bullpen.

Almost any version of Strasbourg will be an upgrade for a staff that ranks last in the starting ERA majors (5.88). Tough years for Patrick Corbin, Adon and Aaron Sanchez, who the Nationals cut last month and signed to a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins on Monday, have sent the numbers spiraling in the wrong direction. The Nationals will soon see if Strasbourg can help bring them down. Martinez still feels like 20-25 starts are within reach.

“Very possible – it really is,” he said. “…We are going to take it very slowly again. Thursday is his first date. I don’t want to look any further than that. »

Andrew Golden in Miami contributed to this report, which has been updated.

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