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.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.