CHICAGO — Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez is still struggling to overcome a right oblique strain that has kept him on the disabled list for the last five weeks and there doesn’t appear to be an immediate end in sight. Rodriguez, who prides himself on his workout routine and pushes himself often, can’t seem to remain inactive long enough to make significant progress with the strain.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Rodriguez suffered another setback this week — this after already cutting short a batting practice session in Houston three weeks ago, flying home to Miami to workout with his personal physical therapist and ultimately heading to Philadelphia to see Dr. Bill Meyers, where he received an epidural shot last weekend.
Rodriguez, though, then reported to Single-A Hagerstown Saturday and took batting practice. He was subsequently shut down for three days because of the epidural shot. According to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, there has not been a change in his status since then, but Rodriguez is still “uncomfortable swinging.”
“He’s not doing too well,” Johnson said Wednesday. “He’s pushing it too hard… He’s just going to have to take it easy and let it heal. That’s an injury that you just can’t push. I told him in Houston, ‘You have to let that relax and get loose before you start pushing it.’
“You know Pudge. He’s in great shape. He wants to play and he wants to get back up here. That was the one reason I didn’t want him to go home (to Miami), because I knew that nobody would be there sitting on him.”
There were reports out of Harrisburg Wednesday evening that Rodriguez had arrived at the Double-A team’s facility and had “worked out” with the Double-A team that day. According to a Nationals spokesman, Rodriguez was indeed in Harrisburg but he is not doing anything physical with the team and will be heading back to Washington in the morning.
Johnson was asked twice Wednesday if he felt the injury, and all of the subsequent setbacks, may keep the 39-year-old catcher out for the remainder of the 2011 season. But Johnson, who has not seen Rodriguez himself since the catcher left the team in Los Angeles on July 24, did not put a specific timetable on Rodriguez when asked and did not say yes or no as far as the season-ending question goes.
“I know he had a shot in Phialdelphia and I know Pudge’s reaction to it: well in a couple days I’ll be able to swing,” Johnson said. “So I’m sure that’s what he did and tried to let it loose thinking he was cured but those injuries take a while. I don’t know anybody that has ever come back from a pulled muscle in that area in less than a month.”
While the injury to Rodriguez has allowed the Nationals to help develop Jesus Flores at the major league level for an extended period of time was Wilson Ramos’ backup, it has taken away both a valuable asset to the team and halted a march toward a personal goal for Rodriguez. He is 158 hits away from 3,000 in his career and the milestone means a lot to him. He has said on several occasions that he would play as long as he could to try to attain the mark. Missing five weeks already this season and clearly at least a few more is not helping him in that cause. It’s also depriving the Nationals of a valuable veteran leader and player.