Nationals physician Wiemi Douoguih diagnosed the discomfort at the base of Christian Garcia’s right forearm as a partially torn tendon, an injury that will require at least another week of rest and could prevent Garcia from being ready for opening day.
Garcia, a hard-throwing right-hander who dazzled in relief during a call-up last September, underwent three elbow operations, including two Tommy John surgeries, as a farmhand with the Yankees before the Nationals signed him off a tryout. The partial tear, Garcia said, will heal with rest and surgery has not been considered as an option.
“There won’t be any surgery,” Garcia said. “I’m done with cutting myself open. … Right now, it’s just about resting it. They want the symptoms to go away. Once the symptoms go away, we’ll have a plan of attack.”
The Nationals had been calling Garcia’s ailment a “strain,” and the partial-tear diagnosis is only a more specific label — all strains are small tears. “It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Garcia said.
Garcia has not even played since catch since Feb. 21, when he threw live batting practice to Nationals hitters. He developed the pain in forearm four days earlier, throwing a bullpen session in chilly conditions.
Garcia will not play catch for at least another week, meaning 17 days at minimum will pass between his throwing session. For every day he misses throwing, Garcia said, he will take one day of regaining arm strength before pitching in a game. Given that timetable, Garcia may or may not be ready for opening day, depending on how long it takes the tendon to fully heal.
“I’m not just going to sit around and complain about it,” Garcia said. “I’m keeping up with my workouts, just keep my body ready so when I do get my opportunity to go back out there I’ll be ready to go. It could always be worse. I’ve got to try to be positive.”
The Nationals intended to turn Garcia, 26, into a starter this season, to more fully take advantage of his four-pitch arsenal. Garcia’s injury may ultimately foil or delay those plans, but Manager Davey Johnson has not abandoned them.
“He should still be stretched out,” Johnson said. “He’s a big machine. Having him do one inning every day, to me, is just as stressful as having one day pitching two or three innings or five innings. But it’s all about building to that point.”
Still, Johnson did not rule out Garcia healing and building up his arm in time for opening day.
“He’s been feeling a lot better,” Johnson said. “There’s still a lot of time for him to go back.”