On a night when the Nationals extended their win streak to three games with a 5-1 win over the Mariners, utility outfielder Chris Heisey confirmed that he has ruptured his right biceps tendon and will undergo an MRI Thursday.
Brian Goodwin was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and Heisey was placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Heisey tore the biceps tendon during batting practice Wednesday but said his arm and shoulder have not felt right since spring training. He said the soreness in his biceps has been something he has dealt with since he started playing in the majors in 2010.
The issue became worse Tuesday night during his pinch-hit at-bat for Joe Ross. Heisey struck out swinging in the eighth inning.
“My shoulder has been bothering me all year on and off,” Heisey said. “I don’t know when that all started. I’ve kind of dealt with biceps tendon problems throughout the course of my career. But last night, actually I swung through, strike three, and something didn’t feel very good in my bicep.
“I came in today, got some treatment and tried to give it a go. I thought it would be fine. I took a swing in batting practice and actually tore my biceps tendon. We’re going to get an MRI tomorrow.”
The 32-year-old Heisey made his way to left field after the inning was over Tuesday night. While warming up with outfield throws he felt pain in his right arm. Fast forward to batting practice Wednesday and it felt worse on his swings.
“Throwing was actually fine until yesterday,” Heisey said. “I went out to left field after I struck out and it didn’t feel right. That’s when I knew something was wrong because throwing hadn’t been a problem at all. It had just been from swinging. That’s when I kind of knew something wasn’t right. Then today obviously, one swing and I felt something that I’ve never felt before.”
Manager Dusty Baker had noticed Heisey favoring his arm at times this season.
“Yeah, it’s been bothering him on and off,” Baker said. “I’d see him shaking it over the course of a game. And so that was something that was bothering him. He took a swing last night - usually these things don’t just happen. It’s through the course of time. It’s sad that it happened to such a good guy. The guy’s one of the spiritual leaders of the team. We’ll just rally around him like we did (Adam) Eaton, and the other guys have to step up.”
Tanner Roark notched the win Wednesday as the Nationals defeated the Mariners for the 13th time in 14 overall meetings. He spoke postgame about the injury to Heisey.
“It definitely sucks. He’s a very hard worker,” Roark said. “He loves the game and he loves to play as a team. He’s a great teammate. Hopefully he gets well and gets back out there.”
Heisey was calm when explaining the injury to reporters during his postgame interview but also admitted that a player never wants to have to leave due to an injury. Heisey is optimistic that the extent of the injury is not season-ending. The MRI will give the medical staff a clearer picture of how much damage was done.
“It’s tough. Even though I wasn’t playing very well, it’s still fun to be a part of the team and feel like at any moment I’m able get in there and help the team,” Heisey said. “It’s tough. I don’t think by any means this is like out-for-the-season kind of thing. That’s the good news. I will be back at some point. That kind of gives me a little bit of hope. It’s not like you’re gone for the year. At least I got that to hang on to. Hopefully when I come back, I’ll be better than new and really contribute.”
Heisey was hitting only .128 in 47 at-bats over 28 games this season. He has only one homer and three RBIs, and has struck out 15 times to only three walks.
Last season, Heisey played a critical bench role for the division champions. He hit .216 with nine homers and 17 RBIs over 63 games. Heisey also hit a home run in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, batting .250 (1-for-4) in five games.
Now Heisey hopes the MRI doesn’t show any more damage than the biceps rupture.
“I just want to make sure nothing else is kind of wrong in there,” he explained. “I don’t know if we’ll go from there. I’m not sure what we’re looking at from here on out. Right now I’m obviously on the disabled list for at least 10 days.”
With an injury this substantial, is surgery a consideration?
“It is an option. It’s something that may or may not need surgery,” Heisey said. “After the MRI, we’ll kind of find out and go from there whether it’s a rehab deal or get surgery. I’ll have to talk to the doctors and kind of go from there. But get the MRI tomorrow and see what it says and make a decision from there.”
Goodwin will be able to play a key role as a backup outfielder for the near future. The club also has second-round 2015 selection Andrew Stevenson playing center field for Triple-A Syracuse. He is hitting .261 over 39 games in the minors so far this season. But none of these options would replace the power that Heisey brought to the table.