WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have officially listed Sunday's starter against the Reds as TBA, as they try to determine whether Stephen Strasburg will be ready to come off the disabled list or if they will turn to Lucas Giolito for his second career start.
Strasburg, who has been sidelined with an upper back strain, threw a bullpen session and took batting practice prior to Thursday's game against the Reds. His stint on the DL is retroactive to June 16, so Strasburg could be activated as early as Friday, although the Nationals seem unlikely to rush him back.
"I'm more inclined not to rush him," manager Dusty Baker said, although he added it's not completely his decision. "He's still got to get his endurance up, still got to run, he still has to do a 'pen; you just don't go back out there and haven't pitched in a while. I'm not in a hurry personally."
Strasburg pitched poorly at the start of last season after he rushed back from an ankle injury, and the Nationals have a strong option in Giolito, the top-ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. Giolito also threw a bullpen session Thursday after Strasburg, which would seem to keep him on track to start Sunday if needed. Giolito pitched four scoreless innings against the Mets in his big league debut on Tuesday, a start that was cut short due to rain.
It might seem to leave Giolito in a tough position, unsure whether he will make his next Major League start, although Baker disagreed.
"I think that's a pretty good spot," Baker said. "He can be back down there in Triple-A knowing."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.