By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
MIAMI, April 17 -- Washington Nationals right-hander Ryan Drese received a much better-than-expected diagnosis of the injury to his right elbow on Monday, and he won't have to undergo season-ending surgery as was originally feared.
An MRI exam led to the diagnosis of a flexor tendon strain, which means Drese probably will miss four to six weeks. The fear was that he would need ligament replacement surgery.
Drese first felt discomfort in Friday night's loss to the Florida Marlins, which he left in the fifth inning. He flew to Los Angeles over the weekend and was examined by orthopedic specialist Lewis Yocum, who performed surgery on Drese's right shoulder last September.
The Nationals acquired Drese last June after he was waived by the Texas Rangers, for whom he started on Opening Day. But his injured shoulder affected his mechanics, and he struggled in his 11 starts for Washington last season, going 3-6 with a 4.98 ERA. In two appearances this season, he went 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA.
For now, Drese's spot on the roster is being occupied by Saul Rivera, a 28-year-old who has never appeared in a major league game. Rivera is likely to hold the spot for just two more days, though, because the Nationals need a starter for Thursday's game at Philadelphia.
The Nationals are planning to give that start to lefty Billy Traber, a former first-round draft pick of the New York Mets who will make his first major league appearance since 2003, when he went 6-9 with a 5.24 ERA for the Cleveland Indians, though he did throw a one-hit shutout against the New York Yankees. Traber spent all of 2004 rehabilitating his left elbow after having reconstructive surgery in September 2003.
The Nationals signed Traber as a minor league free agent in the offseason, and he impressed this spring with a variety of off-speed pitches. In two starts at Class AAA New Orleans, Traber posted a 2.45 ERA and struck out 16 while walking just two in 11 innings.
Traber will become the second lefty to make a start for the Nationals. John Halama started three times last season.