Brandon Kintzler knew something wasn’t quite right the past few weeks when he took the mound so he spent time poring over film attempting to spot the problem. But the Washington Nationals reliever couldn’t find it.
Thus, in a way, his MRI exam result Saturday was good news. The test showed his right elbow is structurally intact, but the forearm flexor is strained, which inhibited him from getting the arm extension necessary to throw his trademark sinker. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list and is confident he won’t need more than the 10 days.
“I dealt with it before and I’ve been able to get rid of it,” Kintzler said. “It’d been lingering a bit on and off this year. When we got rained that whole week against the Yankees, I thought I was pretty safe. I thought I was good to go. Some outings were really good and there were some where I couldn’t really control it. It’s to the point where we got the bullpen’s throwing really well, the team’s throwing really well, where I feel like I can take a break and get it fixed and be back for the stretch.”
The Nationals also officially placed Stephen Strasburg on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. They recalled Wander Suero and Trevor Gott to replace Strasburg and Kintzler on the roster. With Suero and Gott, the Nationals will have a nine-man bullpen at least until Wednesday, when they will need a fifth starter against the Yankees in New York.
Kintzler exited in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday after hitting a batter and surrendering a double. The hit-by-pitch was his third in three outings — as many as he recorded over the past three seasons combined. Kintzler said the bouts of wildness signaled that he needed time off.
“I think, for him, it’s a little bit of a mental break,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “I’ve asked them all to really step up and they pitched a lot. So I think it’ll be good for him, 10 days. He said he thinks that’s all he needs and he’ll be fine. The way our bullpen is now — we got some extra guys, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Without Kintzler, who’s been team’s seventh-inning reliever most of the season, Martinez said he will mix and match relievers to replace Kintzler in the seventh inning. Justin Miller figures to fill the void at least occasionally; the right-hander has allowed one hit and compiled 17 strikeouts without walking a batter in nine innings since joining Washington a couple weeks ago.
While Kintzler will miss some time, second baseman Daniel Murphy appears close to joining the Nationals for the first time this season. Murphy was with the club at Nationals Park on Sunday after playing in games for Class AA Harrisburg on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, he fielded ground balls at second base and took batting practice before the Nationals played their series finale against the Giants.
Though Martinez didn’t commit to a return date for Murphy, he said Murphy is traveling with the club to New York Sunday. The Nationals are in American League ballparks their next five games after Sunday — first New York on Tuesday and Wednesday before a three-game series starting Friday in Toronto — which gives them a chance to activate Murphy and have him DH this week. That would lighten the load on Murphy, whose biggest obstacle has been running and mobility, not hitting.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Martinez said. “We’ll touch base and see where we’ll go from there.”
Joe Panik 2B
Buster Posey C
Pablo Sandoval 1B
Brandon Crawford SS
Evan Longoria 3B
Hunter Pence LF
Mac Williamson RF
Austin Jackson CF
Derek Holland P
Trea Turner SS
Bryce Harper RF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Mark Reynolds 1B
Juan Soto LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Wilmer Difo 2B
Pedro Severino C
Max Scherzer P