Two left-handed relievers the Nationals hoped would provide depth have both landed on the disabled list in the minors with shoulder injuries. J.C. Romero, the veteran left-hander, experienced shoulder stiffness earlier this month that the Nationals consider a minor issue. Bill Bray, the left-handed reliever the Nationals believed could compete for a bullpen spot entering spring training, also recently landed on the disabled list with a shoulder issue.
Both relievers suffered setbacks at inopportune times, as each have June opt-outs date in their minor league contracts looming.
Romero, 36, started the season strong at Class AAA Syracuse but allowed three runs over his final two outings; in both he notched only one out. He last pitched on May 8 and then landed on the disabled list. He was shutdown and has begun a throwing progression to return. The Nationals signed Romero to a minor league deal late in spring training and he nearly made the team out of camp. He can opt out of his contract if he is not on the major league roster by June 1.
Bray, 29, struggled with a mechanical flaw in his delivery during spring training and stayed in Viera to continue working on it. He was assigned to Class AA Harrisburg in early May and was throwing well. According to a Nationals official, Bray’s execution was sharper. He had allowed only two hits and no runs in 4 1/3 innings. But he last pitched on May 14 and then landed on the disabled list with the shoulder issue and was shutdown.
Bray suffered through a groin injury that wreaked havoc on his delivery and derailed his 2012 season with the Reds. This latest setback is troublesome for Bray, who has dealt with various injuries throughout his six-year major league career.
For now, as right-hander Ryan Mattheus recovers from a broken hand, the Nationals have a left-handed reliever, Fernando Abad, who can help fill the void in the majors.
>>> Christian Garcia threw in an extended spring training game in Viera on Thursday and will appear in his third game on Monday. So far, he said he “felt great.” One Nationals evaluator noted that Garcia was throwing the ball really well. After that, Garcia said he is headed to Class AA Harrisburg on a rehab assignment as a reliever.
The Nationals intended to stretch out Garcia’s innings this spring training but that plan was derailed when he suffered a partially torn tendon in his right forearm. Even as he returned to the mound this month, General Manager Mike Rizzo said the plan remained unchanged.