Nationals GM: Stephen Strasburg could pitch in September

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Stephen Strasburg continues to progress in his return from Tommy John surgery, and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Friday that the former No. 1 overall draft pick could make a start in September for the club.

Strasburg was pretty much written off for 2011 after undergoing surgery last Sept. 3, but his rehab is going extremely well.  He threw to hitters for the first time Wednesday, throwing 45 pitches in Viera, FL.

If Strasburg does return this year, it’d likely be for one or two starts at the most, and any sort of setback at all would likely rule that out.  The Nationals’ primary goal is to have him ready for 2012, and they’re only going to let him start in the majors in September if it makes complete and total sense.

Still, there wouldn’t be any real harm in letting it happen if his rehab progresses.  The minor league season concludes at the beginning of September, so there’s not going to be anywhere else for Strasburg to pitch until the fall instructional league play starts up.

Strasburg went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts as a rookie before getting hurt last year.  He figures to join Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan in the Nationals’ 2012 rotation, with two spots still to be determined.

Brandon Morrow injured his back taking off his pants

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The Cubs’ bullpen got into trouble in the ninth inning on Tuesday afternoon during the first game of a doubleheader. Justin Wilson started the inning with the Cubs leading 3-2, normally a situation for closer Brandon Morrow. Wilson issued a leadoff walk to Austin Barnes, then gave up a single to Justin Turner. Morrow wasn’t warming up, curiously. Wilson ended up giving up a go-ahead two-run double to pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer and the Cubs went on to lose 4-3.

We now know why Morrow wasn’t available. He says his back tightened up taking off his pants early Monday morning, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports. Morrow said, “It’s frustrating any time you can’t get out there, especially when you can’t go for something as stupid as taking your pants off.”

Morrow, 33, has been terrific in the closer’s role this season for the Cubs. He owns a 1.59 ERA with a 25/9 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings. He is also not available for the back end of Tuesday’s doubleheader, but it sounds like he won’t need to go on the disabled list.