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09/03/11 6:12 PM ET

Strasburg eager to return to big league mound

Nationals righty to make four starts in September, all at home

WASHINGTON -- After a year of rehabbing his right elbow, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make his season debut Tuesday against the Dodgers at Nationals Park. He is expected to pitch five to six innings.

For the rest of the year, Strasburg will make four starts, and all four are expected to be at Nationals Park. His goal is to remain healthy entering the offseason. By next season, he is expected to be on an innings limit similar to what teammate Jordan Zimmermann was on this season.

Zimmermann, who had Tommy John surgery in 2009, pitched in seven games in '10 and threw 161 1/3 innings this year. The Nats have not announced how many innings Strasburg will pitch next season.

Zimmermann gives Strasburg a lot of confidence that he can make a similar comeback. Strasburg and Zimmermann are expected to be Nos. 1-2 in Washington's rotation next year.

"He has worked out really hard. I just try to do the same thing," Strasburg said. "Bottom line with the surgery, the surgery is pretty much down to a science. It's about all the effort you put in the rehab.

"Obviously, I'm going to be on a limit like he was last year. So, for me, I'm looking a little bit further ahead, where we are not going to have the reins pulled on us. We'll be able to go out there and pitch 200 innings every year and help this team get to the playoffs and hopefully win a World Series someday."

Last year, Strasburg was the ace of Washington's staff, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA before undergoing elbow reconstruction. With hard work, Strasburg was in a rehab assignment by August. In six games, he was 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA. On Tuesday, Strasburg will pitch his first big league game since Aug. 21, 2010, against the Phillies.

"The bottom line is to go out there, get your innings in, build up the arm strength, go into the offseason healthy," Strasburg said. "I'm not going to put any expectations on myself. I'm not going to win a Cy Young in four starts. I'm just going to try and help this team win some ballgames."

"It was my goal [to come back this season]. Besides that, I wanted to go into the offseason healthy. It looks like at this point, both are going to happen."

Besides the hard work, Strasburg said he wouldn't have made it through the rehab process without his wife, Rachel.

"I have to thank my wife for being down there [in Florida]. She made it a little enjoyable down there," Strasburg said. "Despite the circumstances, it was just as hard for her as it was for me."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.