General manager Mike Rizzo offered a series of updates on injured Nationals stars Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg and Jon Lester during his Wednesday appearance with The Sports Junkies.
Soto was the latest to join the 10-day Injured List, scratched ahead of Tuesday's game against the Cardinals with a strained left shoulder.
"The pitchers are always more concerning than the position players," Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan. "Juan's got a strain in his shoulder, so we think that should heal. That'll just take time, but it'll heal and he'll be back to normal and we'll get our offense back on track."
Rizzo feels confident that neither Soto nor Strasburg will be out long term, saying Strasburg "doesn't feel too concerned" about his injury, which makes Rizzo feel good about Strasburg's prognosis. Strasburg was placed on the 10-day IL on Sunday, retroactive to Thursday, April 15 (two days after his last start), suffering what the Nationals are calling "right shoulder inflammation."
"Stras doesn't feel too concerned about it, which makes me feel good because he knows his body," the general manager said. "With pitchers, as long as they're shut down, they have to ramp up. So as long as he doesn't pitch is how long it's gonna take when he comes back to pitch in the big leagues. It's often time consuming."
"We're not sure with the timetable on either guy, but we don't think either of those injuries are long term or season-ending or anything like that," he said. "We'll get those guys back. We just have to win games in their absence, and opportunity knocks for some young player that wants to show what they can do, and that's what this game is all about."
Breaking the news to players that they're being put on the IL are often difficult conversation to have, Rizzo says, but being forthright about it helps the organization build trust with those players and their agents.
"When you're hurt, you're hurt and you know it," he said. "What they have learned in this organization is that we do what's best for the player's long-term health and I think they appreciate that. We're about these guys staying healthy and we're certainly not going to make any rash decisions about keeping a Juan Soto in the lineup when maybe you shouldn't, and then he takes a swing or takes a throw and then something bad happens. We nipped this in the bud early before it became really bad, so that's a good thing."
"The players trust that we're doing the right thing for them and I think that translates into their agents and into their trust factor with us," he continued. "So there's often, when you give them the facts — we educate them. We show them the MRIs and explain to them what these things mean in the pictures and that type of thing, because we want to make a good team decision that everyone can accept."
Lester's next rehab outing is scheduled for Sunday after throwing a 72-pitch simulated game at the Nationals' Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg on Tuesday. Rizzo says Lester's slated to throw "closer to 90 pitches" on Sunday.
"And then after that we're gonna reevaluate," Rizzo said. "If he feels ready, then we think he'll be close, and we could possibly see him after that. But it's all dependent on how he's feeling after that outing and whether we're gonna grab him from the Alternative Site or let him take one more start down there."
"He's close. We're excited that he's coming back and he couldn't be coming back at a better time," he said. "To have his veteran presence on the bench and o