Stiff neck improving, Scherzer targets Monday

Strasburg also working way back from injury; Gonzalez to miss start while on paternity list

Stiff neck improving, Scherzer targets Monday

CHICAGO -- The top of the Nationals' rotation -- Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez -- has been one of the most dominant in the National League this year, but each pitcher is dealing with circumstances that will impact his next start.

Scherzer said his neck stiffness is nearly gone after exiting in the second inning vs. the Marlins on Tuesday. The right-hander showed reporters that he can turn his head to both sides Friday after not being able to turn left Tuesday. Scherzer will miss his scheduled outing Sunday vs. the Cubs, but he's targeting Monday against Miami for his next start. The 33-year-old is planning to throw a bullpen session Saturday when he's feeling 100 percent.

Strasburg was slated to throw a bullpen session Friday, but he isn't sure when he'll pitch again after landing on the DL on July 27 (retroactive to July 24) with a right elbow nerve impingement.

Gonzalez, who carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning of his past start, won't pitch this weekend because his wife is expecting a baby.

Edwin Jackson and Erick Fedde will pitch Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Nats entered Friday with a 12-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East, so they'll likely be cautious when it comes to their star pitchers' health.

The bullpen is also dealing with setbacks, as Enny Romero went to the DL Friday with a left forearm strain he sustained Wednesday. Sammy Solis, who has a 14.00 ERA this season, was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse. Romero has been one of Washington's most reliable relievers this season, with a 3.99 ERA and an electric fastball that reaches the upper 90s.

Romero leaves with injury

The setback may not be too costly, though, as the Nationals traded for Brandon Kintzler last week to join Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson as the team's additions in the bullpen before last Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Worth noting
• In his rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday, reliever Shawn Kelley allowed three earned runs over two-thirds of an inning. Nats manager Dusty Baker doesn't have a timetable for his return after the right-hander went to the DL on June 18 with a right trapezius strain.

"That's kind of what happens a lot of times when big leaguers go down and play in the Minor Leagues," Baker said. "You don't have scouting reports; you don't know knowledge on how to pitch them. In the big leagues, it's so important, the scouting reports. The main thing is as long as he feels good, as long as he's coming out right, we're satisfied."

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.