DENVER -- Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg threw a simulated game at Coors Field Tuesday and came away feeling strong, a positive sign as he recovers from a strained muscle in his back.
Strasburg is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Sunday, and said he feels like he will be ready to make his 13th start Sunday against the Indians in Cleveland. He will toss the ball around Wednesday and plans to throw a bullpen session Friday.
"They wanted me to throw only like 56 pitches, but I didn't even really feel like I threw at all," Strasburg said. "I feel the strength has really stayed there, even though I missed a couple starts."
Strasburg lasted only two innings in his last start against the Braves May 31. Washington pushed back his next start two days, but when he could not toss a bullpen session ahead of that start, the Nationals put him on the DL.
Strasburg said he did not feel any tightness after the simulated game. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Strasburg tossed three or four innings in the simulated game.
"[The back] feels good," Strasburg said. "Threw some good pitches, spotted the fastball, do what I need to do and get a move on, throw a bullpen and hopefully be ready to go."
Before the injury, the Nationals' ace had a 2.54 ERA, but just a 3-5 record to show for it.
Detwiler on track for Thursday start vs. Rockies
DENVER -- Another piece of the Nationals' starting rotation will be back on the mound Thursday, as Ross Detwiler is on track to make the start in the series finale against the Rockies.
Detwiler's last start came May 15, when he left after three innings against the Dodgers with an oblique strain and the Nationals later placed him on the 15-day disabled list. The southpaw had a rehab start with Class A Potomac Saturday, giving up one earned run and striking out four in 3 2/3 innings.
"I don't think he's had any problems since we sent him down to Potomac," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He'll be good to go for Thursday."
In eight starts this year, Detwiler has a 2.76 ERA and 2-4 record. With Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg both set to return before the start of next week, the Nationals should once again have one of the more talented starting rotations in the National League.
"It will be nice when it happens," Johnson said. "Getting close to ready to go, so that will be good."
Nats deal Rodriguez to Cubs for Dickson
DENVER -- The Nationals traded right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez to the Cubs for 22-year-old Minor League right-hander Ian Dickson Tuesday night.
Dickson is in his second year in the Minor Leagues, and has a 6.88 ERA and 2-2 record in 11 games with the Class A Kane County Cougars.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander was selected by the Cubs in the 35th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Lafayette College (Pa.).
The Nationals optioned Rodriguez, who had a powerful arm but often lacked control, on June 4. Rodriguez, 26, spent three seasons in Washington and had a 0-1 record with a 4.00 ERA in 17 appearances this year.
Starts at second bring back memories for Rendon
DENVER -- When Nationals rookie Anthony Rendon made his first Major League appearance at second base last Wednesday, it rekindled Little League memories.
Rendon played third base in college and made the first eight starts of his big league career at that spot earlier this year while filling in for Ryan Zimmerman. But with usual starter Danny Espinosa on the disabled list with a broken right wrist, the Nationals slid Rendon over to second base.
In addition to eight starts at second base in the Minor Leagues, second base was Rendon's home from the time he started playing baseball until the age of 10 or 11.
"I was always the smallest kid on the team so they just threw me at second base," Rendon said. "I mean, I kind of know how to play the position, but just going back, it's been awhile. But just kind of bringing back memories, going back over there."
Rendon said he is still getting used to playing on the right side of the infield, and he's taking advice from anyone who has experience playing the position. Although it might seem like a minor adjustment, the throws and angles at which the ball comes off the bat require a reworking of the instincts he has developed at third.
"The way it comes off the bat, the angles," Rendon said. "You see a right-handed batter, he's going to open up to try to pull the ball, you can see that. Being on the other side you just try to pick up these little antics."
Instead of making the routine third-to-first throw across the infield, Rendon will now be turning double plays. Manager Davey Johnson -- who played first, second and third base in his big league career -- made a similar move as a player.
Johnson said it will take time for him to feel fully adjusted to the right side of the infield.
"It's going to take him a little while," Johnson said. "I know the first time I moved over there, it really took you a couple months to get where you felt like you didn't actually have to see the bag as you come up to touch it. On the other side of the diamond, you're never even going to look at the bag, you just know it's there."
MLB announces Nats 'Tribute for Heroes' finalists
DENVER -- The Nationals' three finalists for the PEOPLE magazine "Tribute for Heroes" campaign include a U.S. Marines veteran and two others who dedicated much of their life to the U.S. Air Force.
John Belcher, a native of Tunkhannok, Pa., spent nearly 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a veterans affair representative, he has since helped over 600 veterans collect the medals they earned for their service.
Lori Kelly, a resident of Alexandria, Va., is the senior enlisted aide to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force and recently took more than 100 World War II veterans to the war memorials in Washington D.C. The single mom still finds time to be involved with the Boy Scouts and the DC Central Kitchen.
Julie Weckerlein, who lives in Centreville, Va., traveled across Europe and later to Iraq and Afghanistan over a 13-plus-year career as a combat correspondent. She wrote and photographed the journey of service men and women as part of her job, and today works in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Major League Baseball will select one winner from each organization, and those people will be honored during All-Star week and before the 2013 All-Star game.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.