Important candidates wishing to bounce back from injury

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It's Christmas morning, and all who celebrate are rushing to see if their holiday wishes were placed under the tree.

For the Nationals, that could have been any number of things coming off a 107-loss year.

But like every major league team over the course of a 162-game season, the Nationals dealt with their fair share of injuries this year.

In fact, they placed 24 different players on the injured list for 25 different stints, with Stephen Strasburg landing on the 10-day IL at the start of the season while recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome, and then on the 60-day IL with a stress reaction in his ribs after his lone start in June.

Those 24 players combined to miss 1,778 games for the Nationals in 2022. So like many, the Nats may be wishing for better health in 2023.

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Doolittle to have season-ending elbow surgery

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Sean Doolittle will have season-ending surgery to repair the partial tear of his elbow ligament that he hoped to return from this year, believing the operation will allow him to return healthy in time for spring training.

The surgery, an internal brace procedure in which a collagen-soaked wrap is placed around the ulnar collateral ligament, is less invasive than Tommy John surgery, with recovery expected to be five to seven months instead of 12 to 18 months. By having it done now, Doolittle sees a path to be ready for the start of the 2023 season.

“I feel really good about it,” the left-hander said. “I don’t feel good about getting surgery. I feel really good that this is the right course of action for me right now at this point in my career, at this point in this process with my elbow. As far as I’m looking at it, 2023 starts right now. I’m viewing this as a long, extended ramp-up into the season next year.”

Doolittle initially landed on the injured list in April after five consecutive scoreless appearances with what was deemed a partial tear of the UCL. With consultation from doctors, he attempted to avoid surgery with a rehab program that included a platelet-rich plasma injection. He began building up his arm strength again, and last week threw off a bullpen mound for the first time and was pleased with how he felt physically during it.

But as he continued to ramp up, he began experiencing the same elbow soreness he had in April, and that was a red flag to him. A new MRI was taken and sent to doctors, who found no more serious tear but not enough healing of the original tear to believe it was wise to continue pitching.

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Hyde on injury updates, Mancini back in lineup, trust in López, and more

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MINNEAPOLIS – Infielder Ramón Urías is expected to begin his injury rehab assignment tonight with Double-A Bowie.

Urías hasn’t played since June 9 due to a strained left oblique. Jonathan Araúz and Tyler Nevin are handling third base, and Richie Martin is available to share second base duties with Rougned Odor.

Starter Kyle Bradish threw on flat ground yesterday without any discomfort in his right shoulder, and he’ll have a bullpen session Sunday morning.

“Encouraged by both of those things,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Good to see Kyle start to get ramped up a little bit, going through his throwing progression, and Ramón in some game action.”

“Hopefully there aren’t any setbacks and he stays healthy during his rehab assignment.”

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Strasburg moves step closer after dominant rehab start

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Stephen Strasburg was already in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park by the time Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the Rockies was completed, the traffic on northbound Interstate-95 apparently not nearly as awful as you’d typically expect it to be on a holiday weekend.

While the Nats were hanging on to beat Colorado and earn their first home series win of the season, Strasburg was making his second rehab start for Single-A Fredericksburg. And unlike his uneven first outing Tuesday night, this time he dominated his far-less-experienced opponents.

Strasburg tossed five no-hit innings. He retired the first 14 batters before finally surrendering a walk with two outs in the fifth. He struck out six. He did all this in only 58 pitches (38 strikes). Suffice it to say, it was about as best-case scenario as you could draw up under the circumstances.

And most importantly, it moves the 33-year-old one step closer to rejoining the Nationals and finally making his 2022 debut.

Manager Davey Martinez has said he’d like Strasburg to be able to complete six innings and/or throw 90 pitches before coming off the injured list. After going five innings Sunday, he should be cleared to go six in his next outing. The pitch count progression might lag a bit behind; it’s tough to imagine the organization would let him throw more than 75 or so pitches next time out. But as efficient as he was in this one, it’s entirely possible he could complete six frames around that total.

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Strasburg, Ross to start for minor league clubs Tuesday

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MILWAUKEE – Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross are ready at last to pitch in games. Minor league games, to be sure, but that’s nonetheless a significant development for both Nationals right-handers as they move closer to making their 2022 major league debuts.

Strasburg and Ross will begin minor league rehab assignments Tuesday night, manager Davey Martinez revealed before today’s series finale against the Brewers. Strasburg will start for Single-A Fredericksburg, with Ross starting for Double-A Harrisburg.

Each hurler is scheduled to throw four innings and roughly 60 pitches in their first true game appearances following lengthy rehab stints at the Nationals’ spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“Now they’re actually competing in a regular scenario,” Martinez said. “You can’t take them out after 15-16 pitches an inning. They have to go out there and compete, and they have to get outs. They’re going out there to help our affiliate teams win. I want them to understand that they’ve got to go out and compete and help those teams win.”

Strasburg has been out since thoracic outlet surgery last summer. Ross has been out since suffering a sprained elbow ligament last summer and then having a bone spur removed from that elbow this spring. Each has been on the 60-day injured list and rehabbing in Florida, slowly building up from bullpen sessions to live batting practice to simulated games, the most recent of which took place Thursday.

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Harvey hopes speaking up gets him back on mound soon

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When Hunter Harvey first felt what he described as a cramp in his right forearm during Wednesday night’s relief appearance, he knew he now faced a serious dilemma. Should he let the Nationals know he might be hurt, or should he try to pitch through it, knowing he was quickly establishing himself as one of the more trusted members of Davey Martinez’s bullpen only two weeks after joining the club?

Throughout his career with the Orioles, Harvey tended to keep these things to himself. That got him nowhere, aside from the injured list, usually for months at a time.

This time, he decided to speak up immediately. And though he’s now on the 10-day IL with a right pronator strain, he believes the stint will be brief because it’s being addressed now and not later.

“I’ve had too many times where I’ve felt stuff like this that I told them: ‘I think I can pitch with it; I don’t think it would be a problem,’ ” Harvey said. “But I’ve pitched with stuff like this before, and I’ll start doing something different trying to protect it and then I’ll end up blowing something out.”

Martinez certainly appreciated Harvey’s willingness to be forthcoming with his injury, an approach plenty of players in his position wouldn’t take.

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Bullpen will try to overcome losses of Doolittle, Harvey

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Davey Martinez knew this might happen. He’d been through a condensed, three-week spring training in 1995 following the end of the players’ strike, and he remembered the physical damage that caused, on pitchers in particular, once the season began later than originally planned.

So the last thing Martinez is right now is surprised. He had a hunch some pitchers wouldn’t be ready for the regular season grind after the short camp. And wouldn’t you know what happened?

First it was right-hander Mason Thompson, who landed on the 10-day injured list April 10 with biceps tendinitis. Then came the back-to-back blows this week: Sean Doolittle, who sprained his left elbow ligament, followed by Hunter Harvey, who has a pronator strain in his right forearm.

“When I went through this as a player in ’95, (for) a lot of these pitchers, April was pretty strenuous,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if it’s anything related to the short spring training, but you’ve got to look at (that), trying to ramp these guys up. That being said, this is the reason we tried to have so many different options, in case something like this would happen.”

Thompson pitched twice in the season’s first three days before he was placed on the IL. Doolittle pitched in six of the Nats’ first 12 games before telling club officials about the elbow pain that was growing worse. And Harvey, who pitched four times in 10 days after he was called up from Triple-A Rochester, reported physical issues following Wednesday night’s game. By Thursday afternoon, he joined the others on the IL.

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Harvey is latest from bullpen to land on IL

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The Nationals were relieved to learn Josh Bell could return to today’s lineup after departing Wednesday night’s game with tightness in his left knee. They were not so relieved to learn another member of their bullpen is out with an arm ailment.

The Nats placed Hunter Harvey on the 10-day injured list shortly before today’s series finale against the Diamondbacks with a right pronator strain, a situation that appears to have just emerged within the last 24 hours after the hard-throwing reliever tossed a scoreless inning.

Harvey, the former Orioles first-round pick whose career has been beset by a smorgasbord of injuries, made four scoreless appearances since joining the Nationals bullpen during the season’s opening weekend. The 27-year-old was starting to earn his way into manager Davey Martinez’s good graces and perhaps start getting called upon in high-leverage situations, but something apparently didn’t feel right during Wednesday night’s game.

Harvey entered that outing averaging 97 mph on his fastball in his first three appearances. That number went down to 96 mph during Wednesday’s game, bottoming out at 94.3 mph on one of the 12 pitches he threw to three Arizona batters.

The pronator is part of the flexor mass group of muscles and tendons in the forearm, near the elbow. A pronator strain would be to one of the muscles in that area, not an uncommon injury for pitchers.

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Ross placed on IL with partial tear of elbow ligament

Ross placed on IL with partial tear of elbow ligament
A summer of misery for the Nationals took another turn for the worse in the last 24 hours when Joe Ross reported forearm tightness following a bullpen throwing session and a subsequent MRI revealed a partial tear of his elbow ligament. The club hasn't finalized a plan yet for Ross, but he will be examined by Keith Meister, the Dallas-area orthopedist who performed Tommy John surgery on him four years ago, and a second major elbow procedure is possible. If that does prove to be the course of...
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Strasburg to have career-altering thoracic outlet surgery

Strasburg to have career-altering thoracic outlet surgery
A week that already was shaping up to be one of the saddest in the Nationals' recent history was jolted by another dagger of bad news today: Stephen Strasburg needs surgery for neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, a potentially career-altering injury. Strasburg's diagnosis came Monday night after an examination by specialist Gregory Pearl, the same Dallas doctor who performed thoracic outlet surgery on Nationals reliever Will Harris earlier this year. Unlike Harris, whose condition was caused...
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Strasburg placed on 10-day IL with neck strain (updated)

Strasburg placed on 10-day IL with neck strain (updated)
The Nationals have placed Stephen Strasburg on the 10-day injured list with a neck strain after sending the right-hander back to Washington for an MRI. Kyle McGowin, who was already in Atlanta as part of the club's traveling taxi squad, was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Strasburg's roster spot and provide another fresh arm for tonight's game against the Braves, in which Jon Lester will be starting on short rest the day after Strasburg's 1 1/3-inning start added more strain to the...
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Robles out of lineup again, getting MRI on ankle

Robles out of lineup again, getting MRI on ankle
The Nationals are without Victor Robles again tonight and now are awaiting results of an MRI taken on the center fielder's right ankle, which remains sore two days after it buckled while he rounded first base in Chicago. Manager Davey Martinez said during his Zoom session before tonight's game against the Orioles that Robles remains day-to-day for now. "He went to get an MRI today, we're waiting on the results," Martinez said. "As the day progressed yesterday, he got sore. So we wanted to...
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Nats want one more tune-up for Strasburg before his return

Nats want one more tune-up for Strasburg before his return
Stephen Strasburg is close to rejoining the Nationals rotation, but first the club needs their rehabbing right-hander to build up his innings and pitch count one more time. They just need to figure out where and when that final tune-up will take place. Strasburg, who has already pitched in two simulated games at Nationals Park, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session this morning before the team's series finale against the Phillies. His next turn to start would come Sunday, but it hasn't...
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Strasburg builds up to 62 pitches, Suero almost ready to return

Strasburg builds up to 62 pitches, Suero almost ready to return
Stephen Strasburg took a significant step forward in his return from a shoulder injury today when he threw 62 pitches over four innings during a simulated game at Nationals Park. Strasburg, out since April 18 with right shoulder inflammation, was initially scheduled to only pitch three innings but felt strong enough after walking off the mound following the third simulated frame to ask for an opportunity to go back out for another. The club's coaching and medical staff agreed, so he wound up...
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Could Soto be ready to return Tuesday vs. Braves?

Could Soto be ready to return Tuesday vs. Braves?
Juan Soto isn't in the Nationals lineup for today's series finale against the Marlins, but there's a chance he could be back for Tuesday's series opener against the Braves. Soto, on the 10-day injured list since April 20 with a strained left shoulder, continued to ramp up his throwing program before today's game at Nationals Park, throwing from 120 feet. "We'll see how he gets through today, and then we'll go from there. Hopefully it won't be that much longer," manager Davey Martinez...
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Strasburg throws off mound, Soto throws in outfield

Strasburg throws off mound, Soto throws in outfield
Stephen Strasburg and Juan Soto each took another step toward returning to the Nationals roster prior to today's game, Strasburg throwing off the bullpen mound for the first time since he landed on the 10-day injured list and Soto continuing to throw in right field to test out his strained left shoulder. Both players are now eligible to be activated off the IL, but both still have additional steps they need to take before the club makes the move, especially in Strasburg's case. Strasburg, who...
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Soto, Strasburg still need to pass throwing tests before return

Soto, Strasburg still need to pass throwing tests before return
The Nationals are getting Jon Lester back from the injured list tonight. They'll have to wait a while longer to get Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg. Though both superstars are now eligible to come off the 10-day IL, neither has been able to pass the throwing tests necessary to be activated. Soto, out since April 20 with a left shoulder strain, did begin some light tossing Thursday for the first time, manager Davey Martinez said in today's pregame Zoom session with reporters. He was due to...
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Lester to throw simulated game, Harris not on mound yet

Lester to throw simulated game, Harris not on mound yet
The Nationals' lineup and bench are now complete with Monday's activation of Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber and Josh Harrison. The Nationals pitching staff, however, is still not at full strength and won't be until two veterans - Jon Lester and Will Harris - are ready to make their season debuts. Each is making progress toward that goal, but it appears each still needs some more time to get there. Lester, who was among the nine major leaguers who had been in quarantine after either testing...
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Pitching prospect Denaburg has Tommy John surgery

Pitching prospect Denaburg has Tommy John surgery
Mason Denaburg, the Nationals' 2018 first-round draft pick and eighth-ranked prospect, will miss the season after recently undergoing Tommy John surgery, a club official confirmed. It's another tough blow for the oft-injured Denaburg, who since he was selected 27th in the country out of Merritt Island (Fla.) High School three years ago has thrown only 20 1/3 professional innings due to arm troubles. The 21-year-old right-hander, who received a $3 million signing bonus, appeared in seven games...
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Robles likely to return Sunday after minor back injury

Robles likely to return Sunday after minor back injury
Victor Robles appears to be fine after departing Friday night's game with back tightness and should return to the Nationals lineup Sunday afternoon. Robles, who had to come out of the Nats' 10-9 exhibition win over the Astros in the fifth inning after coming up awkward on a throw from center field to the plate, told manager Davey Martinez today he "feels fine." The 23-year-old was already scheduled to have tonight off, so he'll now prepare to play Sunday against the Mets. "Hopefully,...
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