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Ryan Mattheus dealing with chest inflammation

Ryan Mattheus, right, and Jordan Zimmermann. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Ryan Mattheus had an MRI exam on Monday afternoon and was told he is dealing with costochondritis, the inflammation of the joint between the joint that connects the sternum and ribs. Mattheus said Tuesday morning that he will still have to meet with Nationals doctor Wiemi Douoguih, but won’t be able to return to action until the pain diminishes, further pausing his efforts to win back a spot in the bullpen.

Mattheus first felt the strange pain in his chest after he threw his second bullpen session of the season, and the team promptly shut him down from throwing. Mattheus can move his right arm without much of an issue, but coughing, sneezing and deep breathes are still difficult.

“That’s the hardest part,” he said. “Even after I did it, the throwing wasn’t too bad. It was just the running around and my feet pounding the ground, stuff like that.”

Mattheus is taking anti-inflammatory medication to help and resting. If Mattheus needs to rest for two weeks, for example, it would hurt his chances to stand out in a crowded competition for the final spots in the Nationals’ bullpen. Any extended rest during the ramping up a throwing program means more time to rebuild arm strength. Although Mattheus was a key cog in the Nationals bullpen in 2012, he posted a 6.37 ERA last season and missed nearly two months after he broke his hand punching a locker, and was confident in his abilities to return strong this spring.

The amount of rest he will need hinges on any improvement in his chest. He is optimistic it won’t hold him out for a long period of time.

“The time frame is however fast it heals,” he said. “Once the pain gets out of there, they’re going to let me ramp up activity accordingly. It’s whenever the pain subsides.”

 Right-handed reliever Erik Davis is expected to meet with Douoguih on Saturday about the progress of his elbow. Davis was placed on the 60-day disabled list on Feb. 13 with a right elbow strain he said was “not that bad.” He was shut down and given a two-to-four-week timetable. If cleared by the doctor after three weeks of rest, Davis could potentially begin a throwing program next week.