Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was dominant in his sixth minor league rehab start Thursday evening at Double-A Harrisburg.
According to Nathan Fenno of the Washington Times, the 23-year-old phenom surrendered just one hit over six scoreless innings while reaching 99 mph with his fastball. Strasburg threw 55 of his 71 pitches for strikes, fanning four opposing batters and yielding just one free pass via a hit-by-pitch. He induced seven groundball outs and four flyouts.
Strasburg threw five innings of one-run ball last time out at Triple-A Syracuse and seems to be growing more and more comfortable executing his full arsenal of pitches. In fact, 15 of his final 36 deliveries Thursday were either curveballs or changeups.
Strasburg is on track to return to the major leagues next Tuesday against the Dodgers. He’d probably do well to build his pitch count with one or two more rehab appearances, but the Nationals are excited about filling their stadium a couple of times down the stretch and don’t believe he’s in danger of re-injury. The former No. 1 overall draft pick underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on September 3, 2010.
Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver has been reassigned to the bullpen, manager Mike Shildt announced Sunday. Fellow righty Daniel Poncedeleon will take his spot in the rotation for the time being, though it’s still unclear whether Weaver’s demotion is a permanent one or not.
Still, it’s not the most surprising of moves, especially as the club advances toward a potential playoff berth in October. Weaver, 24, has struggled to find his groove this season after putting up a 6-11 record in 24 starts and a 4.67 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2018. During two of his last three outings in August, he was pulled before the fifth inning, citing mechanical issues with his delivery that may be impacting his fastball location and delivery and having an adverse effect on his results — and those of the team — as well.
Poncedeleon, on the other hand, appears primed to take on more responsibility following an impressive run with the Cardinals this summer. He maintained a sub-3.00 ERA through his first six appearances, issuing four runs, nine walks, and 10 strikeouts over 17 2/3 innings. While he hasn’t handled more than one start in the big leagues, his track record in the minors speaks to his ability to get consistent results on the mound: he went 9-3 in 17 starts at Triple-A Memphis with a 2.15 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 10.1 SO/9 across 92 innings. He’s scheduled to cover for Weaver on Tuesday against the Pirates and will presumably continue to pitch out of the rotation for the remaining six weeks of the season.