VIERA, Fla. - Erik Davis had been having what he felt like was a "great" offseason. He was full-go, pretty much ready for spring training and throwing to hitters back home a week before he was set to report to camp.
Then, when letting go of a changeup about 50 pitches into that throwing session, Davis felt something in his right elbow. He threw another pitch, a fastball, and while the pitch came out with good velocity and good control, he felt the discomfort in his elbow again.
It was only when Davis reported to spring training here in Viera that an MRI revealed that he had a minor strain in his elbow, which was causing the soreness. As a result of that sprain, the Nationals placed Davis on the 60-day DL yesterday, meaning his spring training is pretty much ending before it begins. The move also cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for the Nats to add minor league left-hander Felipe Rivero, who was acquired in yesterday's trade with the Rays.
"Just knowing how I am, a very competitive person, whatever, and already talking to them about getting better, I think they were a little worried that I was going to try to push it a little bit," an upbeat Davis said today. "So by putting me on the 60-day DL, not only gave them some flexibility, I think, with the roster move yesterday, but also is going to prevent me from trying to rush back. This gives me an extra two weeks or so from the original time frame that they were going to give me. So they think that extra two weeks is going to help me a lot going forward through the season."
The injury isn't thought to be too severe, but it obviously doesn't come at a good time for Davis, who got his first taste of the big leagues last season. He posted an impressive 3.12 ERA in 10 relief appearances, with 10 hits, 12 strikeouts and one walk allowed in 8 2/3 innings.
Davis came into camp ready to compete for a spot in the Nats' bullpen, and now will be shut down completely until at least late-February and will be held back from competing in games for some time.
"Yeah, it's tough," Davis said. "With the new manager, I was looking forward to showing what I could do. I feel like I really came into my own in September, especially. I'd started getting to feeling really comfortable out there. And, you know, you spend five months waiting to get out here and then all of a sudden you're not allowed to play. It's kind of frustrating.
"But once I get into the swing of doing my rehab and getting out there and throwing again, it'll all be worth it, I think, in the end. Especially because with these sort of things you don't want to push it and end up missing a year instead of a month."
I passed along some quick notes from this morning's chat with new Nats catcher Jose Lobaton earlier, but I've got more from Lobaton for you now.
The 29-year-old was lying in bed yesterday morning when he got a call from Rays management telling him he'd been traded to the Nats. It wasn't all that unexpected, because the Rays already had two experienced catchers on their roster in Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina, and Lobaton had heard his name being linked to the Nats for a couple weeks.
"When I got the call, I told my wife, 'Hey, we're going to Washington.' And now I'm here to do my best for the team," Lobaton said.
"They said they wanted it for two months, they were trying to get me, because they think that I can play here. So I'm happy for that. It makes me feel good to know that I can play here. I know with Molina over there and Hanigan, when I saw (the Rays) signed both guys, it was like, 'Wow, something's going to happen.' But right now I'm here and I'm happy, ready to work hard to do the best for the team."
Lobaton appeared in a career high 100 games last season for a Rays team that made the playoffs, and he started two of Tampa Bay's four postseason games, as well. What was the key to the 2013 campaign for the 29-year-old, who had appeared in just 91 career big league games going into last season?
"Hitting. That was the key last year," Lobaton said. "Defensively, I think I can do better and better. Hitting was my, you could say, my negative thing in baseball. Last year, I was doing better. I was swinging different, and just little things I was able to do in the game, everything changed. Now I feel good with that."
The high point of Lobaton's 2013 was clearly his walk-off homer off Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, a shot that at the time kept the Rays' postseason hopes alive. Uehara was nearly untouchable last season, but Lobaton got to him in a big spot on a big stage, and he enjoyed every second of the madness that immediately followed.
"You get it in your mind that you want to do something like that, but when you have it, it's kind of like what is this?" Lobaton said. "Then all the guys, all the reporters are asking questions. And it's like, 'Wow, I'm the hero.' You want to be the hero all the time, but you can't do it every day. When that happened, you've got to enjoy it. It was the best moment of my life."
How did the rest of Lobaton's night go after he left the park that night?
"I watched the replay like 20 times," he said with a smile. "I couldn't sleep."