Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross to pitch in minor league rehab games on Tuesday

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MILWAUKEE — For weeks, Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross have been on the same schedule, testing their arms in the beating sun in West Palm Beach, Florida. But this Tuesday, as they each progress toward a return to the majors, Strasburg and Ross will part ways to begin minor league rehab assignments.

Strasbourg will head to the field for the Class A National Championships from Fredericksburg. Ross will pitch for the Class AA Senators from Harrisburg. The plan, detailed by manager Dave Martinez on Sunday morning, is for the right-handers to record four innings and more than 60 pitches. Ross will be at Harrisburg for two reasons: He’s a bit more advanced than Strasbourg, which means the club wants to see him play against better hitters. And since the resumption of Strasbourg is more critical for the present and the future of the Nationals, the front office wanted him at a closer site.

The Fred Nats play 55 miles from Nationals Park. It is likely that more than one team official will learn about driving this week.

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“Now they’re competing in a regular storyline,” Martinez said when asked about the difference between simulated games and rehab debuts. “You can’t take them out after 15, 16 pitches per inning. They’ve got to go in and they’ve got to compete. They’ve got to get out.

The 33-year-old from Strasbourg is still recovering from last summer’s operation for thoracic outlet syndrome. Ross, 29 and on the 60-day disabled list, has been sidelined since a bone spur was removed from his throwing elbow in early March. Strasbourg will face the Salem Red Sox at 7:05 p.m. Ross will face the Altoona Curve at 6:00 p.m.

If they can both join the rotation, the Nationals would have to make decisions on two fringe starters, likely affecting Aaron Sanchez and rookie Joan Adon. To do that, Martinez maintained that Strasburg and Ross would need to comfortably pitch six innings and 90 pitches. That means, at a minimum, Tuesday’s starts are the first of three appearances with minor league affiliates. If they check those on a five-day schedule, the earliest possible for Washington is June 8.

In mid-March, once the Nationals showed up for camp, Strasbourg admitted he needed at least six weeks – the length of normal spring training – before starting a regular season game. . That took opening day out of the question. But once Martinez publicly wanted Strasbourg to make between 20 and 25 starts, it was clear that Strasbourg would not be back until at least mid-May.

It was the most optimistic view. More realistically, Strasbourg resurfaced in the first weeks of June. Since signing a seven-year, $245 million contract in December 2019, he has pitched just 26 2/3 innings. Back-to-back season-ending trades kept that number frustratingly low for the Nationals.

Without him and Ross in 2022, the rotation entering Sunday ranked 29th in ERA (5.63) and 28th in on-base plus slugging percentage against (.812). A lot therefore hinges on how they feel after kicking off live matches on Tuesday night. Strasbourg comes out of liquidation for the first time in half a decade. Ross, who is expected to become a free agent in November, has been with the IL since suffering a partial tear in his elbow last August. Needless to say, they and the Nationals have been waiting for this.

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