Mattheus shoulder tightens again, Nationals search for answers

Nationals right-handed reliever Ryan Mattheus lasted only two batters in Thursday's 8-1 setback to the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving for what was reported as right shoulder tightness.

It was the same injury that got him removed from the Aug. 18 game against the Cincinnati Reds. Mattheus struck out the only batter he faced in that game and manager Davey Johnson noticed the pitcher working his shoulder in the dugout and alerting him of the tightness.

A week later, he felt it again versus Arizona, when he faced Aaron Hill and hit him with a pitch and then walked John McDonald. He was quickly removed and replaced by reliever Collin Balester.

Manager Davey Johnson said they could not pinpoint exactly what was going on Thursday, but when they saw a drop in velocity, they knew something was up.

"The doctor looked at him and stretched him," Johnson said. "The time I took him out (last week) it was worse because he was lifting. He hadn't been lifting (this week). It was tight enough where the ball wouldn't come out of his hand, usually he is in the mid-90s mph and he was like having a hard time getting it up to 90 mph. Maybe another day off he will be alright. He said he didn't feel bad at all."

Mattheus agreed with Johnson's assessment, and even he doesn't know the root of the tightness in his shoulder.

"It feels normal," Mattheus said. "I don't feel anything out of the ordinary. I don't feel any sharp pains or any achiness, no pain at all while I am out there throwing, even afterwards. I really don't know what it is.

"I did pitch last night. Any time you throw back to back nights you are going to have tightness, it is normal. It is not that you are hurt or you tore anything. The velocity wasn't there so they are being cautious.

"I do notice some drop in velocity when I throw back to back nights but it is nothing drastic. It is one or two mph. Tonight, I think I was 89 to 90 mph. Even to me I don't know why that is happening."

Mattheus felt the same shoulder tightness in Wednesday's one inning of scoreless ball.

"I felt the little symptoms the last (night) from the weight lifting and from something that didn't get loose. Once I stretched out last night, I felt fine," Mattheus said.

Mattheus heads off to Cincinnati and the team will give him a couple of days off. He has had a good season for the Nationals, so you wonder if he might be hitting a 'dead arm' period. Maybe it is no coincidence, but Mattheus is coming off Tommy John surgery, albeit two years ago.

Mattheus' numbers are not bad, sporting a 2.40 ERA in 32 games, including an 18 2/3 innings scoreless streak at Nationals Park (17 games).

Now the question is how will Mattheus shoulder react to rest in Cincinnati and if it does not, will the Nationals make a move to bring up another reliever? Saturday and Sunday we may have a clearer picture.

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