NEW YORK - Just as their lineup is returning to health, the Nationals rotation is losing pitchers to injury.
Jeremy Hellickson became the latest Nats starter to land on the 10-day injured list this afternoon, sidelined with a strained right shoulder in a transaction that opens up a roster spot for newly acquired reliever Javy Guerra.
Hellickson had not previously revealed any arm trouble to reporters, but the veteran right-hander said today he has been dealing with minor discomfort for several months.
"It's just something that's kind of been there since spring training," he said. "Really hasn't gotten better. It hasn't really gotten worse. Hopefully we'll just take these 10 days and take it light and hopefully get back to close to 100 percent."
Hellickson may be taking it light, but he's not shutting himself down altogether. Within an hour of the announcement of his placement on the IL today, he was playing catch in the outfield at Citi Field, throwing long-toss from approximately 200 feet.
"I just don't want to take too much time off from throwing," he said. "I feel like it's not going to be more than a 10-day thing, so I don't want to get too far behind. Just taking a start off and taking that one day of 80-90 pitches off should help and get me back closer to 100 percent."
Though he wouldn't use the shoulder issue as an excuse for his performance, Hellickson hasn't pitched well in weeks and lasted only three innings in a loss to the Cubs on Sunday night. In nine overall starts, he's 2-3 with a 6.23 ERA and 1.718 WHIP, averaging only 4 1/3 innings per start.
This is the third time Hellickson has gone on the IL in the last two seasons, having suffered hamstring and wrist injuries in 2018 that limited him to 19 total starts.
He's now ineligible to pitch for the Nationals until at least May 30. Erick Fedde starts tonight in place of the injured AnÃbal SÃ¡nchez, who won't be eligible to return from his hamstring strain until May 27 but is making progress in his recovery.
Manager Davey Martinez said SÃ¡nchez, who threw off the bullpen mound today, is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Friday. If all goes well, he'd be on track to come off the IL and rejoin the rotation five days later.
All of that leaves the Nationals needing to find a fill-in starter for at least one turn through the rotation: Friday's series opener against the Marlins in D.C. Right-hander Kyle McGowin, a starter at Triple-A Fresno now in the big league bullpen, would seem to be the likeliest option. Joe Ross, who began the season as a starter, has made a full transition to reliever over the last several weeks and club officials seem committed to keeping him in this new role.
Martinez confirmed McGowin is a candidate to make the start, but said the decision hasn't been made yet.