Mattheus getting closer to rehab assignment

Mattheus getting closer to rehab assignment

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Mattheus is still a few weeks away from returning to the Nationals, but he took another important step in the rehab process on Sunday.

After throwing only fastballs in his first bullpen session on Friday, Mattheus threw all of his pitches before Sunday's game against the Padres. The right-hander said he will fly to the team's facility in Viera, Fla., on Monday and pitch a simulated game on Tuesday before being re-evaluated. If all goes well, he will pitch in a Gulf Coast League game later in the week.

"My slider felt good today in the bullpen, which it's never really good out on the field," Mattheus said with a smile. "But I had a pretty good slider today, and the split was good, too, so I'm very happy with where I'm at."

Mattheus has missed 44 games this season after punching a locker and breaking his hand on May 19. His return will make for a suddenly crowded bullpen, as recent additions Ian Krol (1.42 ERA) and Fernando Abad (1.08 ERA) have performed admirably since Mattheus' injury.

"These guys coming in, I know Abad's got some Major League experience, a couple years, but he's really stepped up and done an amazing job," Mattheus said. "And what Ian Krol's doing, straight out of Double-A, is storybook. Those guys have stepped up big time."

Nationals manager Davey Johnson knows that he will have to make some difficult decisions in the coming weeks with the expected returns of Mattheus and right-hander Christian Garcia, who is on the 60-day disabled list with a right forearm injury. But Johnson isn't ready to tackle those decisions just yet, deflecting a question about any potential changes to his bullpen.

"I like where we're at," he said on Friday. "The lefties are doing great. Mostly just giving them some work, I haven't really integrated them yet the way I'd like to going forward. But I have a little more of a trust factor in all the guys."

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. Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.