JUPITER, Fla. - Reliever Elvin Ramirez, the hard-throwing right-hander the Nationals took in last December's Rule 5 draft, is dealing with arm troubles that have shut him down from throwing for several days at a time. He arrived late to camp because of visa issues and hasn't pitched a game yet. And without time to evaluate him, manager Jim Riggleman said it's unlikely the Nationals will be able to put him on their opening day roster.
"He's got something going on there that we had to shut him down for a few days," Riggleman said. "He feels good, then he doesn't feel so good. Basically, I just know that we're not going to be able to use him for a few days at least yet, and we're looking at a very short time period to make an evaluation of him."
That's especially problematic with Ramirez because of the fact he's a Rule 5 pick; if the Nationals don't keep him on their 25-man roster all season, they'd have to send him back to the Mets (the club that made Ramirez available in the Rule 5 draft) or work out a trade with New York to retain him.
The Nationals could also put him on the disabled list to start the year, delaying the point where they'd have to make a decision on him. They did that with reliever Terrell Young, the first pick in the 2008 Rule 5 draft, eventually sending him back to the Reds after he spent more than two months on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
But Ramirez is not likely to be on the mound for another week, Riggleman said. By that point, the Nationals will have 10 days left in camp, with a crowded bullpen leaving little room to take a chance on Ramirez.
The news takes one more name out of the Nationals' bullpen picture. Assuming the team will keep a long reliever, they'll have six more spots for relievers. Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett are virtual locks. Henry Rodriguez (who makes his spring debut today) and Todd Coffey are also likely to be in the group. If the Nationals keep Doug Slaten as a lefty specialist, they'd have one spot for Drew Storen, Collin Balester or Cole Kimball. They could keep two of those relievers if they decide they don't need Slaten.