If the Nationals miss these playoffs, injuries will undoubtedly be blamed for the team not meeting the sky-high expectations placed on them. Some have been blatant like Jayson Werth’s fractured left wrist on a darting fastball, while others, such as Anthony Rendon’s sprained MCL on a diving play, seemed otherwise harmless.
Just last week, there was the unlucky Tyler Moore spraining his left ankle while accidentally stepping on a baseball in the batting cage.
But none of the Nationals injuries have come close to touching the bizarre nature of Reed Johnson’s latest affliction.
Johnson, who has been on the disabled list with a left calf strain since April 29, was on a rehab stint at Single-A Potomac when he was struck in the ribs by a pitch. Although, that’s not exactly what sidelined the 38-year-old.
Somehow Johnson, a 13-year veteran, strained his oblique on a violent sneeze.
“Strange happenings,” said perplexed manager Matt Williams. “He got hit in the ribs, and then sneezed and pulled an oblique in the same area. I don’t know what it was. But he actually sneezed and he’s got an oblique strain. So he’s been taken back off of a rehab and we’re dealing with that. I’ve never ... there have been a lot of strange things.”
Johnson was hitting .313 (5-for-16) with two homers, five RBIs and three runs scored in five games for Potomac.
“Unfortunate for him because he was just ready and had made such an effort to get back here,” Williams said.
The Nationals signed Johnson to a minor league contract on March 30 after the Marlins released him. Johnson made the opening day roster and batted .222 (4-for-18) with two RBIs in 12 games.
Johnson initially injured his calf on a key pinch-hit RBI double, which cut the Braves’ lead to one in the seventh inning of the Nationals’ historic 13-12 comeback win in Atlanta on April 28.
Update: After Wednesday’s 6-5 loss, Johnson spoke in the clubhouse. He underwent an MRI revealing a cracked rib which was the result of an errant throw. Johnson was struck in the ribs by the ball while running up the first base line early in his rehab stint. He continued to play with the injury until the pain level increased. The sneeze accentuated the injury.