Finnegan returns from paternity leave, McGowin hits injured list

The Nationals bullpen got a boost and took a hit today, with news that right-hander Kyle Finnegan had returned from paternity leave. To make room for Finnegan on the 28-man roster, the Nats placed righty Kyle McGowin on the 10-day injured list with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, a tough break for a guy who has performed well while riding the shuttle this season between Triple-A Rochester and the majors.

Manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters that McGowin's problem cropped up yesterday while playing catch in the outfield before the finale against the Phillies when the pitcher told team training staff that his elbow "felt weird."

The Nats sent McGowin for an MRI, which revealed the UCL sprain. The team will now send the MRI to a specialist "and go from there," the manager said.

Thumbnail image for McGowin-Throwing-Blue-Sidebar.jpgThe fear is that McGowin, who has posted a 4.20 ERA and 1.167 WHIP in 27 relief outings covering 30 innings this season, could be a candidate for Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. Martinez understands the ramifications of a UCL issue, but isn't fearing the worst until the specialist weighs in.

"I don't want to assume anything until we hear back from the doc and he assesses what's going on," Martinez said.

While McGowin awaits word from an orthopedic specialist on his next steps, the Nats will welcome Finnegan back to handle the ninth inning, as he's been doing since Brad Hand was traded to the Blue Jays during the pre-deadline roster purge. Ironically, Hand is back at Nationals Park as a visitor for the second time in a month, as he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays after posting a 7.27 ERA in 11 appearances and picked up by the Mets yesterday.

The Nationals, mired in a five-game losing streak, didn't have a save opportunity during Finnegan's time on paternity leave. The right-hander is 4-5 with a 2.77 ERA and six saves this season for the Nats. In 13 games since Hand's departure, Finnegan is 1-3 with six saves in seven opportunities, a 0.75 ERA and a .209 opponent batting average.

* Martinez hobbled into his pregame Zoom session on crutches after undergoing a planned surgical procedure on his ankle yesterday. The operation was originally slated to occur on an off-day, but Wednesday's rainout because of the remnants of Hurricane Ida meant Martinez had his procedure as planned, then watched from his office as bench coach Tim Bogar managed in his place.

"I'm OK, a little sore today," Martinez said. "Everything went fine."

Martinez reported that the ankle was "worse than thought," but he expects to manage tonight from the bench against the Mets. But he may have to designate someone else to handle on-field tasks - arguing with umpires or checking on injured players - while he remains stationary.

"I'm good to go today - I hope," he said. "I'm going to try to get to the dugout."

* Martinez offered no clarity on who will start the nightcap of tomorrow's split doubleheader against the Mets. Erick Fedde will go in the first game.

The Nationals could go with a bullpen game or bring someone up from Rochester for a spot start. To summon someone from Triple-A who is not on the 40-man roster, however, would require an additional roster move to clear space on the 40-man and 28-man rosters.

"We haven't decided that," Martinez said. "We'll talk about that today."

Lefty Josh Rogers, who was scratched from his scheduled Friday night start for Rochester, is an option to make the start in the nightcap.

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