Starter Chien-Ming Wang is expected back sometime in July after shoulder problems limited the former Yankee to 12 appearances last year. He has been on a rigorous rehabilitation program that has included long toss, throwing off a mound and throwing live batting practice. Wang's next big step will be when he pitches in more than one simulated game successfully.
From there, the hope is that Wang begins a rehab assignment soon, Rizzo said. For him to return in July it is likely that such an assignment would have to begin within the next couple of weeks.
Catcher Jesus Flores is on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury. Rizzo said that the Nationals are still expecting Flores back this season and that he is working on throwing accurately to all the bases.
"[Flores] has to catch nine innings and be able to throw well before he [starts a rehab assignment]," Rizzo said. However, Rizzo is confident that he will be back this season, likely at the Major League level.
Young left-handed starter Ross Detwiler also remains on the 60-day disabled list recovering from right hip surgery earlier this year. Detwiler began a rehab assignment earlier this month at Class A Potomac and has had a couple of starts. He has hit 93 mph on his fastball, Rizzo said, and thus far has no issues after tearing cartilage in that hip.
"Everything that Ross has done so far as a starting pitcher looks great," Rizzo said. "His arm looks well and he is making progress."
Rizzo indicated that as his rehab progresses, the Nationals may be forced to make a decision in the coming weeks on either optioning him to the Minor Leagues or calling him up to the Majors.
Fortunately Washington's starting rotation has performed well even without the services of Wang, Detwiler and recently, Scott Olsen, who is battling shoulder tightness and is in Florida on extended spring training trying to recover.
"We have a rotation of Major League caliber pitchers and they have kept us in just about every game," Rizzo said. 'We're striving to get better, though, and we feel that competition breeds success. Having options [in the starting rotation] is a key."