“Unfortunately the timing was good,” Martinez said of bringing Madson back in Herrera’s place. “But I would love to have them both. But getting Ryan back definitely helps.”
Herrera’s injury came in the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 15-0 win over the New York Mets on Sunday. Herrera was running off the mound to cover first base and felt something weird when he planted his left foot. The injury occurred just five days after his return from the disabled list due to a shoulder injury in his throwing arm. He went down to the Citi Field grass in pain and had to be carted off the field.
X-rays on Sunday were negative. But Monday’s MRI delivered the tough news, especially for the veteran reliever, as Herrera will be a free agent this offseason and has been spotty since joining the Nationals. The Nationals (65-66) enter this series 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East with 31 left to play.
“As soon as I land I saw the groundball and I tried to get it and I feel like it was twisted,” Herrera said Monday of the play against the Mets. “But I still got the out. It was a high price for it. I consider this like bad luck.”
Madson comes back after experiencing lower-back pain earlier this month, which sent pain down his leg and made it hard for him to finish his pitches. The 37-year-old right-hander was the Nationals’ fill-in closer when he went to the disabled list, and he spent time with personal trainer Jay Schroeder in Phoenix to work back to the mound. Madson has worked with Schroeder since 2013, and Schroeder used slow-motion video to study Madson’s delivery and see what was causing the back pain.
Schroeder’s identified subtle pelvic movements as the problem, and Madson made small tweaks to how he starts and ends his pitches. Madson said Monday that he did not have to change his throwing motion at all. He threw a bullpen session in New York on Sunday and said “the first 10 pitches were probably the 10 best pitches I’ve thrown all year.”
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Madson added before Monday’s game. “I got a little fatigued after that, tried to do a little too much. But it was a good steppingstone, a good feeler. Emotions were high so it was game-like, so I felt very confident going into today that I’d be fine. I went out and played catch and it felt great, 100 percent effort. So yeah, just feel very lucky to be back.”
Martinez did not commit to Madson as his closer, saying that Greg Holland is throwing well right now. Wander Suero also has turned in encouraging results. The Nationals are still without all-star closer Sean Doolittle due to a left foot injury suffered in early July. Martinez got a bullpen option back ahead of a do-or-die series against a division opponent, but lost another one at the exact same time.