WASHINGTON -- A week ago, Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty was on his way to his son's basketball game in Michigan when he received a call from right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who told his coach that he started soft-tossing a ball without any problems.
It was the first time Strasburg threw a ball since last August, when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow -- an injury that forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Strasburg is not expected to pitch in the Major Leagues until September.
"He didn't say what kind of ball he threw, but I know he is tossing a ball around," McCatty said in a phone interview with MLB.com. "He said [the arm] felt really good."
Strasburg is expected to arrive in Viera, Fla., for Spring Training next week and will not be rushed to get on the mound, according to McCatty. Strasburg will go through similar workouts that right-hander Jordan Zimmermann went through last Spring Training. Zimmermann missed most of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he returned to the Major Leagues in September.
"It will be like Zimmermann," McCatty said. "Stephen will start throwing a short distance, stretching it out and then eventually getting on the mound. There will be a certain amount of pitches [per session]."
For McCatty, the most important part of his job is to convince Strasburg not to rush back to the big leagues.
"It's important to tell Stephen not to rush it," McCatty said. "They feel good, they want to throw hard. When guys are doing the rehab and they are told, 'We want to throw 25 pitches at 50 percent,' they really don't know what 50 percent is. They have to hold it back and I have to visibly watch them and say, 'All right. Too much.' I had to do that with Zimmermann a bunch. They have to adhere to the program and you really have to stay on them."
Before suffering the elbow injury, Strasburg was the ace of the Nationals' staff, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in the first 12 starts of his career. He ranked third on the team with 92 strikeouts.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.