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07/09/10 8:34 PM ET

Nationals option Atilano to Triple-A

Righty will return to rotation after break; Maxwell to be called up

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Luis Atilano has been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse, the Nationals announced Friday. Outfielder Justin Maxwell will be recalled and join the team Saturday, according to two baseball sources.

Atilano, though, will be back in the rotation when the Nationals face the Reds after the All-Star break. The 25-year-old rookie will pitch one game for Syracuse in order to stay sharp during the time off.

He expects to start for the Chiefs on Thursday against Pawtucket.

"It's to keep sharp so I don't have too many days of rest," Atilano said. "I'm going back home for the break, so I'm probably not going to do much around there, so they want to keep me here in shape so I can be successful. I'll do whatever I have to do."

Atilano said the Nationals did not say if they expect particular results in Syracuse.

"They just want to keep me on track," he said. "It's like a regular start."

The right-hander is 6-6 with a 4.85 ERA in 15 starts for Washington this season. In his most recent start -- a 7-1 Nationals loss to the Padres on Thursday -- Atilano allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Maxwell is batting .296 with 58 hits, 18 RBIs and six home runs in 55 games for the Chiefs this season. Maxwell has appeared in 21 games for the Nationals, hitting .121 with one home run and three RBIs.

His last game with the Nationals came in a 5-3 victory against the Padres on May 28. He went 0-for-4 at the plate and started in right field.

Strasburg to face Marlins on July 17

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg's first start after the All-Star break will be on July 17 against the Marlins in Miami, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said Friday.

After the initial start, Strasburg (2-2) will be on a regular schedule -- every five days -- until he reaches the expected 160 combined innings in the Major and Minor Leagues this season. Entering Friday's game against the Giants, he had pitched 92 innings.

After Strasburg reaches the maximum innings, he will be done pitching for the season. After that point, he will stay in Washington and work with pitching coach Steve McCatty for the remainder of the time.

Riggleman said he expects 10 or 11 more outings for Strasburg this season.

"The whole thought early on was that we would really stretch him out in between [starts] quite often, so we can pitch through September," Riggleman said. "We decided not to do that, just to pitch him until his innings are done. When the innings are done, they're done.

"We want to win. Our players want to win. I think we need to send a message that we're going to finish up strong this weekend as best we can and open up as strong as we can after the break."

Riggleman said he felt this was the best choice for Strasburg and the Nationals, even if the team had a chance to contend later in the season. He also added that Strasburg had no say in the decision.

"He's ready to go," Riggleman said. "He just wants to pitch. He's the perfect young man to be up here. No matter what happens, he's working hard, he's with the program, he's prepared. If we told him he wasn't going to pitch for three weeks, he would be very upset about it but respectfully not say anything."

Harris, Kennedy get starts for Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Willie Harris and Adam Kennedy were both in the starting lineup on Friday, playing left field and second base, respectively.

Both players have been used primarily as pinch-hitters or defensive specialists as of late, but Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said he wanted to give them added time in the lineup.

"Willie had a good at-bat last night, but we're not going to get those at-bats if I don't ever get him in the game," Riggleman said. "Willie is a very good defender. I got a lot of confidence in Willie against any right-hander in the league. He's a good hitter, the numbers really don't indicate how good he is."

Harris was hitting .161 with four home runs and 18 RBIs entering Friday.

Riggleman said it was important to get Kennedy back in the lineup on a regular basis. Cristian Guzman, who has received the majority of playing time at second base this season, shifted over to shortstop Friday.

"We're going to face lefties the next two days, so this is an opportunity for Adam Kennedy to keep him as sharp as possible," Riggleman said. "There's too many days when he is not playing, and he's gotten better and better the more I've played him lately. It's more of an indicator of the type of hitter he is."

Kennedy was hitting .246 with two home runs and 16 RBIs entering Friday.

Greg Rosenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.