By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 15 -- In what was supposed to be a seminal season in his development, Jesús Flores has instead gone sliding in the opposite direction, and the latest injury setback is the biggest blow yet. The Washington Nationals learned on Tuesday that Flores, 24, has a torn right labrum, which will require surgery and force him to miss between three and six months.
Orthopedist James Andrews, who on Tuesday examined Flores in Birmingham, Ala., will perform the procedure -- technically, SLAP repair surgery -- on Wednesday.
"He should be ready for the middle of spring training, worst-case scenario," General Manager Mike Rizzo said.
Since Flores emerged in 2008 as their everyday catcher, the Nationals have viewed him as one of their primary building blocks. But this year, they've hardly gotten a chance to see him. Struck in the shoulder by a foul ball on May 9, Flores has since been subject to a curious series of progressions and setbacks. He was initially found to have a right shoulder contusion. He began a rehab assignment in late May. His injury then worsened into a stress fracture. He took the summer off. Right arm still weak, he came off the disabled list on Sept. 4, exclusively to pinch-hit. But he complained of shoulder pain, and the team asked for a subsequent examination.
Rizzo revealed on Tuesday that within the last month Flores has dealt with shoulder tendinitis. Originally, Washington believed that was a benign sign of his recovery process. But Andrews's examination showed otherwise.
The Nationals, Rizzo said, do not believe Flores's latest injury is related to previous shoulder problems.
Explaining how the labrum tear went unnoticed until now, Rizzo said, "[Flores] had an MRI on August 12. And it didn't show a tear. He was examined by Andrews at that time and our [team] doctor, Wiemi Douoghui. He was examined three different times as he was on the disabled list and had two sets of MRIs that showed no tear. With the persistence of the tendinitis in his shoulder we felt it was prudent to send him back [for subsequent testing]."
Since returning from the disabled list, Flores had three pinch-hit at-bats, most recently on Sept. 12. Rizzo said that Flores's injury won't necessarily prompt the Nationals to seek a starting catcher via trade or free agency this offseason.
"We're going to look at all the options," Rizzo said. "But catcher, with the people we have on staff right now and Jesús, we feel comfortable where we're at."Looking at Next Year
With the release on Tuesday of the 2010 Major League Baseball schedule, the Nationals got their first look at next year's slate.
The Nationals open the season April 5 with a three-game homestand against Philadelphia. They play the first nine games of the year against NL East rivals. (Complete schedule on Scoreboard, below.)