The Nationals placed Ross Ohlendorf on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, an ailment Ohlendorf said he could have pitched through, just not without leaving the Nationals’ bullpen short-handed for several days. The Nationals recalled left-hander Xavier Cedeno from Class AAA Syracuse to replace Ohlendorf.
On July 26, Ohlendorf threw 114 pitches – his highest total since May 2009 – as he allowed the Mets one run over seven innings in just his second big league start this year. Wednesday in Detroit, five days later, Ohlendorf came out of the bullpen throwing his fastball 85 miles per hour, an alarming drop from his usual mid-90s heat.
“I really feel it’s just inflammation from pitching that’s kind of standard,” Ohlendorf said. “The jump in pitches made it more inflammation. I just need a little more time to get it down. It’s nothing that I’m really worried about. I wish I didn’t need to go on the DL. But I think this will work out best for everybody.”
Ohlendorf, who has a 1.85 ERA in 34 innings, insisted he had no injury, only an exaggerated form of the typical soreness that comes after a start; acting pitching Spin Williams described Ohlendorf’s condition as arm “heaviness.”
Ohlendorf has played catch the past two days. Team trainers performed strength tests on his arm, and the results convinced them no further exams – such as an MRI – were necessary.
Ohlendorf agreed to go on the DL as much for roster purposes as his own health. He would not have been available today or tomorrow, when the Nationals’ begin a meaningful, three-game series against first-place Atlanta.
“We don’t want to risk getting hurt,” Ohlendorf said. “It would put the bullpen in a disadvantage to only have six guys. I think it’s best for everybody to make sure we have a full bullpen and make sure I get better.”
Ohlendorf’s trip to the disabled list could complicate the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Taylor Jordan, today’s starter, will likely make two or three more starts before he hits a team-mandated innings cap. Ohlendorf was the clear choice to replace him. He may still be – he said he’ll continue to throw and should be ready to come off the disabled list in 15 days.
“I’ve always liked starting,” Ohlendorf said. “But I’m happy to be in the bullpen.”
But there is a chance the Nationals will turn elsewhere. Manager Davey Johnson was vague Saturday discussing possible alternatives. He said the potential replacement had been with the Nationals in spring training, but revealed no other clues.
It could be Nate Karns, who made three starts earlier this season and has a 2.79 ERA in his past starts at Class AA Harrisburg.
Another strong candidate emerged at Class AAA Syracuse. Right-hander Tanner Roark – one of the pitchers the Nationals acquired when they shipped Cristian Guzman to the Rangers at the 2010 trade deadline – has a 2.05 ERA over his past 10 starts, a span during which he has walked four batters in 52 2/3 innings.
For now, the Nationals will use Cedeno in their bullpen, giving them another left-hander to confront Atlanta’s lefty-heavy lineup. In 25 2/3 innings at Syracuse this season, Cedeno has a 1.40 ERA with 34 strikeouts.
“Just attacking the hitters,” Cedeno said.