By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — While Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the NLDS, Nationals General Manage Mike Rizzo hasn’t ruled him out from pitching later in the postseason, should Washington advance.

Still recovering from a strained flexor mass, Strasburg began throwing on flat ground from 90 feet this week, another step in the Nationals’ return-to-pitch program. The next step will be for Strasburg to throw from a mound, then eventually stretch out his arm by ramping up his innings count in rehab games as he readies for his return.

Given the calendar the Nationals are up against, with Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers coming Friday, Oct. 7, “it’s unlikely that he’d contribute in that first series,” Rizzo told reporters Tuesday.

On The Sports Junkies Wednesday, Rizzo was asked if they’re considering shutting Strasburg down altogether.

“Um. The question is just shut him down throughout the playoffs?” Rizzo asked.

“Yes,” Junkies co-host Eric Bickel said. “Yes.”

“No, if he’s ready to pitch, he’s gonna pitch,” Rizzo said. “We’re hopeful if we’re fortunate enough to get to the next round of the playoffs that he’s certainly in our plans to pitch if he’s ready to do so.”

“What would be required,” Bickel followed up. “You don’t have a minor league start, right? How do you do that?”

“What would be required is you have to go through the protocol like all pitchers do that are coming off DL,” Rizzo said. “You have the return-to-pitch program. You play catch, you long-toss, you get on the mound, you throw rehab games, you throw sim games. You get extended out to a certain amount of pitches, and once you’ve crossed all those things off your list, then we think about activating you and going and pitching against other teams.”

“What are the rehab games, though, since the minor league season is over,” Bickel asked. “I mean like instructional league, that sort of stuff? Is that what you do?”

“Yeah. You get to a place. Our instructional league program is well underway,” Rizzo said. “You go down there. You can manufacture games to look like anything you want them to look like, so there’s certainly an option to get guys stretched out and face professional hitters. That’s probably the track we’ll take. But if he’s ready to pitch and he’s capable of pitching, we will certainly run him out there in the playoffs. Your question was asked, are we gonna risk his health to pitch him in the playoffs? Of course not. That would be stupid and we would never do that.”

On if NLDS roster has been set: “We have not. We’re going to meet Friday with our staff and go over some analytics and some statistics, and talk to the coaches and see what their feel is. What 25-man roster best fits the Dodgers at that time? Who’s hot? Who’s not? What players can affect you off the bench? What kind of bullpen do you want? That type of thing. We’ll be doing that pre-game Friday.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.


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