Ferrer to open on IL with upper back strain; Lile "grateful" to be fine

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Jose A. Ferrer is going to open the season on the injured list with an upper back strain, removing one of the left-handers competing for a spot in the Nationals bullpen with two weeks to go in spring training.

Ferrer has a strain of the teres major, a muscle that connects the upper back to the shoulder, and will be shut down three weeks before he’s re-evaluated, according to manager Davey Martinez.

The 24-year-old made only three Grapefruit League appearances this spring, two of them during the first week of games, then one more March 8, when he tossed two scoreless innings but apparently was already dealing with some discomfort. The club had him undergo an MRI this week, which revealed the strain.

Ferrer was competing with Robert Garcia, Richard Bleier and Joe La Sorsa for one or two spots in the Opening Day bullpen the Nationals would like to give to a left-hander. Bleier, in camp as a non-roster invitee, has made a team-high eight appearances, striking out seven without issuing any walks. La Sorsa, who was dropped from the 40-man roster over the winter, has allowed only one run in 6 2/3 innings and has converted each of four save opportunities. Garcia, who has received the most praise from Martinez this spring, has a 3.86 ERA across seven innings.

Ferrer actually has pitched better than any of them, with only two batters reaching base in four innings of work. But his inexperience – and the fact that he still has minor league options – probably put him in a disadvantageous position entering camp.

Now he’s expected to open the season on the IL and likely will need time to build his arm back up once he’s cleared to resuming throwing again.

Dylan Floro, meanwhile, is slated to finally make his spring debut in the next couple of days, according to Martinez. The veteran right-hander, who signed this winter for $2.25 million, was dealing with a sore shoulder earlier in camp but has been throwing off a mound and facing live hitters on back fields the last two weeks.

Even though there are only 10 days left in spring training, Martinez said Floro has enough time to be ready for Opening Day.

“We’ve got to really get him cranked up and see what he can do,” the manager said. “I think there’s time. I don’t know how much he really likes spring training. But he threw the ball well (on back fields). He liked the way he felt afterward.”

* Though he’s not cleared to play in today’s Spring Breakout Game, Daylen Lile did make the trip with the rest of the Nationals’ prospects and participated in pregame drills, two weeks removed from the scary injury he suffered flipping over the right field wall at Red Sox camp.

Lile, who had just entered that game moments earlier, chased down a drive to deep right-center and flipped over the short wall trying to make the catch. He landed on his back on a concrete slab in the Boston bullpen, prompting a frantic call from Red Sox relievers for a trainer.

After a delay of more than 10 minutes, Lile was taken off the field on a stretcher and transported to a Fort Myers hospital, where he learned he had only suffered a lower back contusion.

He has been back in Nats camp since, and though he’s not playing in games yet he said he believes he’ll be ready to begin the minor league season on time.

“My target goal was today,” Lile said with a laugh. “But it is what it is. I think my target goal now is to start playing games next week on the back fields and just go from there.”

All things considered, the 21-year-old feels fortunate to not have been more seriously injured.

“Very grateful,” he said. “Right now they’re telling me I’m still going to be able to break camp. It’s definitely a blessing I don’t have to stay in hot Florida and keep working.”

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