WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Will Harris recently underwent a follow-up procedure to clean scar tissue remaining from last year’s thoracic outlet surgery, delaying the Nationals reliever’s season debut even further, manager Davey Martinez revealed this morning.
Harris had the procedure Thursday in Dallas, performed by the same orthopedist who performed last year’s more complicated surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve near the right-hander’s armpit that was causing his hand to swell up after pitching.
The 37-year-old came to camp last month hoping to be ready to go on opening day, but after several appearances against live hitters he complained of issues that left him still not feeling right. He traveled to Dallas to be examined by Dr. Gregory Pearl, who performed last year’s thoracic outlet surgery, and the diagnosis was that scar tissue was affecting the nerve.
Martinez said Harris will be prevented from throwing for three to four weeks, after which he’ll start building his arm back up. The club hasn’t made any official roster move yet, but he would seem to be a candidate to open the season on the 60-day injured list, which would clear a 40-man roster spot for one of several non-roster invitees expected to make the team.
Frustrating as this delay is for Harris, who has made only 28 appearances for the Nationals since signing a three-year, $24 million contract entering the 2020 season, the veteran reliever at least knows now what was causing this latest round of issues, and it’s now been addressed.
“I think he feels relieved that it wasn’t something he’s got to live with,” Martinez said. “They went in there, saw he had that scar tissue buildup around the nerve and they cleaned it out. Dr. Pearl said he thinks that’s going to resolve all issues.”
Harris will stay in West Palm Beach after the team leaves town today, as will Stephen Strasburg, Joe Ross and Carter Kieboom, all of whom will open the season on the IL.
Strasburg, also returning from thoracic outlet surgery, has been throwing off the mound, at times out of a windup. He’s slated to start facing live hitters again next week.
“We mapped out a plan for him,” said Martinez, who has said he hopes for 20-25 starts from Strasburg this season. “Hopefully, he continues to get better every day. He’s getting better. He’s building up his bullpens. I think next week he starts throwing lives again.”
Ross, who had surgery last month to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, has resumed throwing again. He’s now up to 90 feet on flat ground.
Kieboom has not been cleared to throw yet after being shut down this spring with a flexor mass strain in his forearm and ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his elbow. Along with Ross, the third baseman already has been placed on the 60-day IL.
Ehire Adrianza, meanwhile, will open the season on the 10-day IL with a strained left quadriceps muscle. Though the utility infielder has made progress in the last 48 hours, he won’t be ready to start the season healthy.
Adrianza’s absence opens the door for Lucius Fox to make his first opening day roster as the Nationals’ primary backup infielder. Martinez said he wants to begin the season with a four-man bench, which is likely to be made up of Fox, catcher Riley Adams, outfielder Yadiel Hernandez and utilityman Dee Strange-Gordon.