Ward lands on IL, Nats keep two lefties in bullpen

After spending the majority of the season to date with zero left-handers in their bullpen, the Nationals are going to keep two for the time being after making another roster move today, but not the one that seemed the likeliest.

With Patrick Corbin returning from the bereavement list, the Nats placed Thaddeus Ward on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation, keeping both Jose A. Ferrer and Joe La Sorsa in a bullpen that suddenly includes two lefties.

Ferrer just made his major league debut Saturday after his promotion from Triple-A Rochester. The 23-year-old pitched a scoreless inning against the Phillies, then did it again during Sunday’s 5-4 victory. He’ll now get a chance to stay and prove he can enjoy continued success at this level.

“He’s throwing the ball well,” manager Davey Martinez said. “The biggest thing I like is he’s throwing strikes. It’s something I talked to him about when he got here: ‘It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, or what you throw. It’s about throwing strike one.’ And so far, he’s done that.”

La Sorsa, who made two appearances for the Rays earlier this season before the Nationals claimed him off waivers and called him up late last month, impressed in his first two outings but allowed four runs while facing only five batters during Saturday’s 19-4 loss in Philadelphia.

Ward hasn’t been nearly as effective, owner of an elevated 7.12 ERA and 1.648 WHIP in 22 games, but he hasn’t been eligible for a traditional demotion to the minors. The top pick in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft, Ward must either remain on the active big league roster or the major league IL, or else be offered back to the Red Sox and then exposed on waivers to every other club.

Rule 5 players are required to spend at least 90 days on the active roster. Ward has already crossed that threshold, so in theory he could remain on the IL the rest of the season and remain the Nationals’ property, eligible to open 2024 in the minors. This injury does not appear to be serious enough for that scenario to come into play, though.

Ward said his shoulder felt sore in the wake of Saturday’s game, in which he also surrendered four runs without completing a full inning of relief. He reported it to club officials, who had him undergo an MRI, which revealed the inflammation. The 26-year-old wouldn’t use that as an excuse for his performance.

“I think the performance and the health are completely separate things,” he said. “Everybody knows I haven’t been pitching well, but I think that’s totally separate from the shoulder inflammation that’s going on.”

Ward cited poor mechanics as the primary reason for his struggles and said he hopes to use his time on the IL – once he’s cleared to resume throwing – to work on that in preparation for rejoining the roster.

“I’m happy with how much more I’ve been in the strike zone than earlier in the year,” he said. “But cleaning up some of this execution that’s leading to these things that are happening performance-wise out there – my slider’s up, not putting guys away in two-strike counts – that’s the kind of stuff I want to clean up.”

A starter through most of his minor league career with Boston, Ward has been used exclusively out of the bullpen with the Nationals. But the organization views him as a potential No. 5 starter long term and could use this IL stint to give him time to ramp up in preparation to make a few starts before season’s end.

“I don’t ever want anybody going on the IL, but we can use it to his advantage, and our advantage as well and get him right,” Martinez said. “You can’t really know if it’s affecting (his pitching) until he has time off and comes back. We’ll see how he’s doing then. We’re going to use this time wisely. We’ll strengthen him, get his shoulder strong and then build him up again.”

Nats can't make most of quality pitching performan...
Game 84 lineups: Nats vs. Reds

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/