DENVER -- Ross Ohlendorf got a pleasant surprise Thursday morning when Nationals manager Davey Johnson told him he would be sticking around a little while longer.
Ohlendorf, who went six innings and gave up only one run Wednesday night in a spot start, will move to the bullpen as a long reliever. Many expected Ohlendorf to head back to Triple-A Syracuse after the fill-in start, but Ohlendorf will stay with the Nationals at least through Sunday as the backup starter for Stephen Strasburg in case a last minute setback keeps him off the mound.
"[Ross] is more of a veteran pitcher," Johnson said. "You like veterans in that role more than a young arm. It also frees me up to line up [Craig] Stammen and use him not just in the long-relief role, which has been valuable, but also in the latter parts of the game."
The right-handed Ohlendorf bolsters a bullpen that Johnson said he is much more confident in than the one he had to start the season. Since late May, Washington has added two left-handed relievers to the bullpen in Ian Krol and Fernando Abad.
"It gives us the balance I like in the bullpen," Johnson said. "… You got to control matchups late in the ballgame, that's when you manage. So, I should be smarter from here on in."
While Ohlendorf was primarily a starter with Syracuse, he made several relief appearances with the Padres last year.
Strasburg cleared to start Sunday in Cleveland
DENVER -- Stephen Strasburg completed the next critical step toward his highly-anticipated return from the disabled list, tossing a bullpen session at Coors Field on Thursday morning.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said head trainer Lee Kuntz cleared him to pitch Sunday against the Indians in Cleveland.
"I mean, he's never satisfied. He didn't have the pinpoint control that he expects out there," Johnson said of Strasburg. "I think he attributes it more to the light air. Steve's always a perfectionist."
The first positive step in Strasburg's recovery came after the flame-throwing righty threw three-to-four innings in a simulated game in Denver on Tuesday. A muscle strain in Strasburg's lower back put him on the DL June 5, five days after the injury forced him out after just two innings against the Braves.
Davis optioned to make room for Detwiler
DENVER -- After five appearances, Erik Davis' first big league stint is over.
The Nationals optioned Davis, a right-handed reliever, to Triple-A Syracuse Thursday to free up a spot for Thursday's starter, Ross Detwiler, who returned from a nearly month-long stay on the disabled dist with an oblique issue.
Davis, 26, pitched 4 1/3 innings and was unscored upon in four of his five appearances. His only misstep came in his second appearance on June 5 against the Mets, when he gave up three earned runs in one inning.
"I thought the first time out he was very aggressive after the hitters, and then he started getting a little more cautious, full counts and high-pitch innings," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "But I think it was a good first experience up here for him. Got a good future."
Johnson chosen for Bochy's All-Star Game staff
DENVER -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson will be in the dugout at the All-Star Game this July for the first time in 26 years.
The National League announced Thursday that Johnson will be one of Giants manager Bruce Bochy's two coaches in the Citi Field dugout for the July 16 Midsummer Classic. It will serve as a sort of homecoming for Johnson, who served as the Mets' manager from 1984-90 and led them to a World Series victory in 1986.
"I thank Bochy for inviting me," Johnson said. "Going back to New York will be a zoo, but other than that, I'm looking forward to it."
Johnson, the 2012 National League Manager of the Year, has coached in an All-Star Game twice before -- in 1986 in Houston and at the 1987 game in Oakland. Mets manager Terry Collins will join him on the National League bench.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.