DETROIT -- Nationals senior vice president and general manager Mike Rizzo is traveling with the team on this road trip and provided some updates on injured Washington players Tuesday afternoon.
Starter Chien-Ming Wang is expected back sometime in July after shoulder problems limited the former Yankee to 12 appearances last year. He has been on a rigorous rehabilitation program that has included long toss, throwing off a mound and throwing live batting practice. Wang's next big step will be when he pitches in more than one simulated game successfully.
From there, the hope is that Wang begins a rehab assignment soon, Rizzo said. For him to return in July it is likely that such an assignment would have to begin within the next couple of weeks.
Catcher Jesus Flores is on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury. Rizzo said that the Nationals are still expecting Flores back this season and that he is working on throwing accurately to all the bases.
"[Flores] has to catch nine innings and be able to throw well before he [starts a rehab assignment]," Rizzo said. However, Rizzo is confident that he will be back this season, likely at the Major League level.
Young left-handed starter Ross Detwiler also remains on the 60-day disabled list recovering from right hip surgery earlier this year. Detwiler began a rehab assignment earlier this month at Class A Potomac and has had a couple of starts. He has hit 93 mph on his fastball, Rizzo said, and thus far has no issues after tearing cartilage in that hip.
"Everything that Ross has done so far as a starting pitcher looks great," Rizzo said. "His arm looks well and he is making progress."
Rizzo indicated that as his rehab progresses, the Nationals may be forced to make a decision in the coming weeks on either optioning him to the Minor Leagues or calling him up to the Majors.
Fortunately Washington's starting rotation has performed well even without the services of Wang, Detwiler and recently, Scott Olsen, who is battling shoulder tightness and is in Florida on extended spring training trying to recover.
"We have a rotation of Major League caliber pitchers and they have kept us in just about every game," Rizzo said. 'We're striving to get better, though, and we feel that competition breeds success. Having options [in the starting rotation] is a key."
Pudge returns to Detroit on top of his game
DETROIT -- Washington catcher Ivan Rodriguez has fond memories of the four and a half years he spent in Detroit. He went from joining a team that the previous season had lost 119 games, when he joined the Tigers in 2004, to a World Series appearance in 2006. Two years later he was part of a Deadline deal to the Yankees.
Now, Rodriguez returns for this second appearance in Detroit since being traded from the Tigers. When he returned in late 2008 he was weeks removed from wearing a Detroit uniform. At 38, Rodriguez is still at the top of his game, hitting .338 entering Tuesday's game despite missing two weeks in May because of a minor back injury.
"It's nice to be back," Rodriguez said Tuesday in the visiting dugout at Comerica Park. "They have good fans here and I have good memories here."
In many ways there are similarities between the Nationals team Rodriguez now plays with and the Tigers team in 2004 and 2005. There is a nice combination of veterans with many young, talented players, particularly in the starting rotation and bullpen, Rodriguez said.
"It reminds me of those teams before we got to the World Series," Pudge said.
Although he might not be considered one of those younger players, Rodriguez continues to amaze. He hasn't missed a beat since returning from a brief stint on the disabled list, to the surprise of no one: not his senior vice president and general manager, Mike Rizzo, nor his former manager, Detroit's Jim Leyland.
"Nothing [Rodriguez] does surprises me," Rizzo said. "He has been healthy and then had that back issue which we knew wasn't long term. But right now he's locked in behind the plate and at the plate."
"He's hitting over .330 and I look at the performance on the field and how he handles the pitchers," Leyland said. "If you look at how many games he has caught -- that's pretty amazing."
Rodriguez is poised to join the 3,000-hit club with 2,758 hits heading into Tuesday's game. Rodriguez admits that that mark is a goal of his and that he needs to stay healthy to achieve that.
"If and when the moment comes it will be unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "But right now my job is to hit and help us win games."
Leyland, for one, has no doubt that the 3,000-hit club is well within Pudge's reach.
"He's on a mission to get 3,000 hits. He's hungry. And he's kept himself in great shape," Leyland said. "He's a remarkable guy. There's no doubt in my mind that he'll get there."
Washington manager Jim Riggleman compared his offense to that of Detroit's in that both teams have talented veteran hitters who, as a group, perhaps haven't found their rhythm. But he did add that first baseman Miguel Cabrera (.330, 19 HRs, 56 RBIs) is one of the best hitters in the game. "He's a lot to deal with," Riggleman said. ... The Nationals enter Tuesday's game 13-21 on the road. It's not the worst road record in the league, but Riggleman admits that it should be better. "I don't have a reason for why we're that much different at home (18-12) than on the road," Riggleman said. "There is a difference for most teams, but ours is bigger than some. Maybe it's luck of the draw or coincidence."... Adam Dunn is leading the National League with 35 extra-base hits and is hitting .336 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in his last 33 games. ... A total of 26 of Washington's last 38 games dating to May 5 have been decided by two runs. The Nationals are 12-14 in those games.
Mike Scott is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.