Sprained right wrist will send Hellickson to DL

Jeremy Hellickson is headed to the 10-day disabled list with a sprained right wrist, and the Nationals hope the right-hander will miss only one start.

“He has a bad sprain,” manager Davey Martinez said Friday afternoon, before the Nats opened a three-game home series against the Marlins. “He’s going to miss a start, so we’re going to put him on the DL. We haven’t made a move yet. We’ll probably wait until tomorrow.”

Hellickson-Gray-v-PIT-sidebar.jpgHellickson was injured in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game in St. Louis when he collided with a runner at home plate and went sprawling. He broke his fall with his right hand, which bent back awkwardly at the wrist, causing Martinez to fear he had broken the joint.

An MRI performed this morning confirmed the injury.

“He’s still pretty sore,” Martinez said. “He says it hasn’t gotten any better. We’ll have to wait and see, but hopefully with treatment, he’ll get better quickly.”

Martinez said Hellickson’s injury is in the outside portion of the wrist where it connects to the hamate bone, a wedge-shaped protuberance near the pinky finger. Pain and inflammation in the joint has prevented Hellickson from doing anything more than receiving treatment so far, the manager added.

“He says he can’t flex,” Martinez said.

Hellickson’s next scheduled turn in the rotation would come Tuesday, but the Nationals may not have to look far for a replacement to take that start against the Phillies in the opener of a three-game home series. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg could be ready to return from a stint on the DL, where he’s been since July 25 with a cervical nerve impingement that required an injection from a Los Angeles-based neurologist.

Martinez said the Nationals will have a better sense of Strasburg’s availability after the right-hander throws a scheduled bullpen session before Saturday’s game.

“A lot will depend on how he feels after tomorrow,” Martinez said. “He’s going to throw another pretty heavy bullpen and then we’ll go from there.”

Strasburg has been on the DL twice this season, spending June 12-July 20 on the sideline with right shoulder inflammation. He last pitched in a major league game on July 20, working 4 2/3 innings and absorbing the loss in an 8-5 setback to the Braves.

* At 61-61, the Nationals begin tonight’s game nine games off the lead in the National League East. But their next 12 games come against divisional opponents, including six against the Phillies, who currently reside in second place, 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves.

Martinez is well aware of the ramifications of a 1-6 road trip through Chicago and St. Louis, and that time is growing short if the Nationals are going to make a run at a third straight division crown.

But he’s not about to anoint anything a must-win game or series, even if it’s the final six weeks of the season.

Instead, the first-year skipper continues to beat the drum about concentrating on the present, one game at a time.

“I think what we need to focus on is today,” he said. “We all know what we’re up against, but let’s worry about today. We said the same thing yesterday going into yesterday’s game. We’ve been playing well. Let’s concentrate on winning today, getting over today and then worry about the next day the next day. The boys are starting to hit, we’re playing well. Get our pitching squared away, we’ll be in good shape.”

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