After last night’s game, Cole Kimball walked into the small weight room attached to the Nationals’ clubhouse. The soreness in his shoulder, which he had been feeling and keeping quiet about since April, prevented him from pushing against a trainer’s hand with any resistance. He knew he could not pitch.
“I was kind of crushed,” Kimball said.
Today, the Nationals placed Kimball on the 15-day disabled list inflammation in his right shoulder. Kimball underwent an MRI exam today. The full results have not returned, but doctors determined, “I had a really bad flare up in my rotator cuff,” Kimball said.
Kimball first felt pain in his throwing shoulder warming up one day in the early April chill, when he began the year in Class AAA Syracuse. He still pitched well enough to earn a promotion to the majors, and he joined the Nationals on May 14.
“Once I got up here I wasn’t going to go, ‘Oh, now my arm hurts,’ ” Kimball said. “I just kept pitching.”
Kimball still pitched effectively, allowing three earned runs in 14 innings while striking out 11 and walking 11. But his arm hurt more and more, and it became harder and harder to get ready to pitch. Last night was the worst yet.
“I really didn’t get loose yesterday,” Kimball said. “I’m not where I should be right now. I’m not supposed to be throwing 92-94. I’m supposed to be throwing 95-98, throwing strikes.”
Last night, Kimball entered with the bases loaded and walked the first batter he faced on five pitches. He decided he could no longer bear the pain or keep it to himself. “I went straight in there after the game and said, ‘This really hurts,’ ” Kimball said. “It has nothing to do with the coaching staff, nothing to do with the organization. I’m not where I should be.”
Said Manager Jim Riggleman: “I admire him for trying to pitch through it. But he probably should have said something earlier.”
It became obvious the inflammation in his shoulder affected his ability to pitch, but his ineffectiveness last night “had zero to do with my injury,” Kimball said. “I’m not trying to make excuses.”
Kimball waited until now to speak up about his injury because he reached the point, he felt, where he could not pitch effectively. The pain, he said, is one thing. But now, he thinks he would hurt the Nationals if he took the mound.
“I’m not going to give my team a chance to win and at this point,” Kimball said. “It’s just too far. So now I’ve got to shut it down.
“It’s just something you pitch through sometimes, and sometimes you can’t. I’m at the point right now where I don’t want to try and push it too far and end up having it worse than it could be. Now it’s just rest and medicine instead of surgery. Right now, I’m just going to rest and get better and start strengthening the area and then I can start throwing the way I’m supposed to.”
Kimball will have a hard time waiting. He was drafted in 2006 and spent more than five seasons in the minors wanting to pitch in the major leagues. He lasted one month before an injury forced him to stop.
“Yeah, it’s really disappointing,” Kimball said. “I’ll do everything I have to do to get back.”