Lee hopes to learn from first trip to IL

Evan Lee could tell something wasn’t right Friday afternoon as he unleashed a string of eight consecutive balls, two of them wild pitches. He just didn’t know it was serious enough to motion to the Nationals dugout for a trainer.

“Just discomfort,” the left-hander said this morning. “And it kind of spiraled out of control.”

That it did. Tasked with pitching multiple innings in the opener of a doubleheader against the Phillies, Lee wound up throwing 33 pitches but only 11 strikes to eight batters. Only one run scored, but the bigger damage was to the left-hander’s arm, which he would eventually learn has a flexor strain.

He only learned that after manager Davey Martinez decided to make a mound visit, bringing director of athletic training Paul Lessard with him. Martinez didn’t know for sure Lee was injured, but he knew something was off.

“Just watching him and watching how he’s doing, I was trying to figure out what was going on,” the manager said. “Because he doesn’t miss the strike zone like that. When I went out there, he was very much like nothing was wrong. And I said: ‘Well, something’s got to be wrong. We want to get you checked out.’ And I’m glad we did.”

The Nationals placed Lee on the 15-day injured list before Saturday’s game, recalling reliever Andres Machado only one day after he had been optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Lee will be out at least a few weeks, but club officials are hopeful it won’t be much more than that.

“They said within a couple weeks, he should be fine,” Martinez said. “There’s not much he can do right now. He’ll get some strengthening done, and he’ll be back as soon as possible.”

Lee said he’s dealt with arm issues before in his young career, though nothing quite like this.

“I’ve had some tendinitis and issues in the past, so I knew what normal soreness was and what light discomfort was,” he said. “It was definitely a little different.”

This was only Lee’s fourth major league appearance. After throwing 67 pitches in his lone start June 1 in New York, he transferred to the bullpen, though he remained on something akin to a starter’s schedule, pitching every five days as it turned out.

Chalk it all up as a learning experience for a 25-year-old rookie who’s still finding out what he can pitch through and what he needs to speak up about.

“It is new,” Lee said. “You want to play every day. You want to help the team win. But that’s just my nature. I’m competitive enough to want to try to push through some things. I probably shouldn’t have. But sometimes you learn.”

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