PITTSBURGH - Hunter Strickland can laugh about it now, but in those first few moments after the barbell fell from the rack and struck him on the face Tuesday afternoon, the Nationals reliever didn’t know what to think.
“I had no idea. I didn’t know what happened,” he said. “Obviously, it hit me pretty good, so it kind of dazed me for a second there. After that, I looked up in the mirror. My nose was crooked and bleeding everywhere. Just kind of put two and two together: Got knocked out by a bar.”
One day after the incident that broke his nose, Strickland provided a detailed explanation of what exactly happened. He actually wasn’t lifting weights in that moment, merely using the weightlifting equipment while working out with a resistance band.
“So the squat rack has the bar on the rack, obviously,” he explained. “Well, above that we have a red cord that’s used for hip mobility stuff. So I pulled the cord in front of the bar so this wouldn’t happen, and obviously it didn’t work out too well. When I sat down to get on the ground to do the hip stuff, I went to reach up and grab the cord, and I guess one of the loops still got hung up behind it. And when I grabbed it, I guess my weight pulled the bar off it, and it crushed me.”
The barbell struck Strickland on the bridge of his nose. After team medical personnel helped clean him up, the right-hander was sent to a nearby doctor’s office for X-rays, which confirmed a broken nose.
Within an hour, Strickland was back at PNC Park, playing catch in the outfield. Doctors cleared him to pitch in Tuesday night’s game, though he never appeared in the Nationals’ 4-1 loss to the Pirates.
“It was determined a clean break, I guess?” he said. “So there wasn’t any really other high risk with it. Doctors OK’d it. I went outside and threw previously and felt great.”
Strickland thus became the second member of the Nationals pitching staff to break his nose in a non-game situation this summer. Max Scherzer busted his nose on an errant bunt during batting practice in June, then returned to pitch seven scoreless innings against the Phillies the next night, all while sporting a pair of black eyes.
Strickland’s nose and face don’t look nearly as bad as Scherzer’s did. He still received plenty of ribbing in the bullpen during Tuesday’s game, but he was able to laugh it off.
“It was all fun,” he said. “I was still cleared to play, so that’s all that matters. It could’ve been a lot worse.”
In other news ...
* The Nationals are hopeful Joe Ross will be able to start Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, but they won’t know for sure until he attempts to throw a bullpen session Thursday afternoon. If Ross, who was struck in the lower right leg by a 110-mph comebacker during Monday’s game, can’t pitch, the Nats have Erick Fedde preparing to start as a fallback plan. It’s unclear what will happen to Fedde if Ross is deemed good to go, with Scherzer essentially taking his spot in the rotation.
* MASN broadcaster Bob Carpenter will miss the finale of this series in Pittsburgh and this weekend’s series in Chicago so he can return to Washington to be with his wife, Debbie, who is having surgery Friday to remove a tumor from her lower right leg. Doctors are optimistic that the tumor is benign. Carpenter expects to return to the broadcast booth sometime next week. “The Nationals and MASN have been amazing about this,” he said. “They told me: Take whatever time you need.” Dave Jageler will fill in as MASN’s play-by-play announcer while Carpenter is away, with Pete Medhurst joining Charlie Slowes on the radio broadcast.
Update: After a rare off night Tuesday, the Nationals lineup has come back to life. The Nats scored six runs off Joe Musgrove in the top of the third, getting RBI hits from Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon and then a three-run blast from Asdrúbal Cabrera, who now has 13 RBIs in 10 games as a National. Rendon, meanwhile, has matched his career high with 100 RBIs. He’s 10 shy of Ryan Zimmerman’s club record, with 36 games still to be played. The Nats lead 6-0 through three.