On Wednesday, Todd Coffey adhered to his usual conditioning routine, run sprints in the outfield at Nationals Park. On his second-to-last sprint, he felt a cramp in his left calf. By the time he reached the clubhouse, he realized it probably was something more a cramp.
Coffey had strained his left calf, an injury that does not affect his pitching but left him unable to field his position. “It’s just a day-to-day type of thing,” Coffey said. “But in the bullpen, you can’t be day-to-day.”
And so the Nationals, fearing their bullpen could become thin during today’s doubleheader, placed Coffey on the disabled list and recalled Collin Balester. Since he hasn’t pitched since April 8, Coffey is eligible to come off the disabled list April 24. Coffey can still pitch bullpen sessions – he’ll throw one Tuesday – and keep his arm in pitching shape. He will travel with the team, and both he and the Nationals expect him to be available next Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Manager Jim Riggleman said Coffey “did not want to go on the disabled list,” but Coffey also recognizes it’s the sensible option .
“No player ever wants to be on the DL,” Coffey said. “But it does make more sense, especially early in the season. You don’t want to go out there and have something that’s nagging, then all of a sudden you pull it even worse. You can tear it completely, have surgery and you’re out three or four months. Or I take the seven days and let it heal completely. To me, it was a no-brainer decision.”
Coffey’s expected rapid return will potentially leave Balester back in the majors for only a week. The Nationals could also send down Rule 5 pick Brian Broderick, but that would mean they would either lose him back to the Cardinals or they would be forced to swing a trade to keep him. Balester could stay, but with an option that lasts all season, he could find himself on the Justin Maxwell Memorial Syracuse-to-Washington shuttle.
Balester has consistently pitched well enough from last fall, this spring training and in the early stages of this season in Class AAA Syracuse to prove he belongs in the majors. But, unlike years past, Balester will concern himself only with what he does on the mound, not on the circumstances surrounding his status.
“Anytime they call upon me, I’m going to do what they tell me to do,” Balester said “I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about if they call me today to pitch, I’ll pitch. Hopefully this lasts forever. In years past, I would probably worry about it too much. Just taking it one day at a time.
“I’ve learned a lot in this game. This game has been good to me and I’ve had some times that I’ve struggled a lot. I was able to just know everything was going to work out. I had a good attitude about it. If you have a good attitude you can bounce back pretty easily. Been keeping positive with everything, and it’s helped me a lot.”