The Washington Times - April 17, 2011, 01:09PM

If it were September, Todd Coffey insists he would be pitching. Instead, the Washington Nationals right-hander headed to the 15-day disabled list today with a strained left calf. The move is retroactive to April 9. 

Coffey, who hasn’t pitched since April 8, injured his calf during routine conditioning last week. At first, he thought it was a cramp.


“You don’t want to go out there and have something that’s nagging, then all of a sudden you pull it even worse,” Coffey said. “You can tear it completely , have surgery and you’re out for three or four months. … Or I take the seven days and let it heal completely. To me, it was a no-brainer.”

The strain doesn’t hamper Coffey while pitching — he can still throw bullpens — but it prevents him from moving quickly for something like fielding a bunt. So, for now, he gets treatment four times each day on what amounts to a knot in his calf.

“It’s very painful when someone is digging on it,” Coffey said.

Meanwhile, right-hander Collin Balester was summoned from Triple-A Syracuse Friday night and arrived Saturday afternoon to replace Coffey. He pitched well in spring training, but landed in Triple-A because he had an option left.

“I felt like I was good enough to make the team,” said Balester, who didn’t allow a run in five innings with Syracuse. “It helped me keep a great attitude and keep my head up. … I knew at some point they were going to need me, even if it was September.”

Balester has pitched in parts of three seasons with the Nationals, including striking out 28 in 21 innings out of the bullpen last year. Since Coffey expects to return quickly, this stay could be short for Balester.

“Hopefully it lasts forever,” Balester said. “In years past, I would probably worry about (being demoted) too much.”