With Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel still not fully recovered from the left intercostal strain that forced him out of Washington’s game with St. Louis Tuesday night before the bottom of the second inning, the Nationals placed Ankiel on the disabled list Sunday morning retroactive to June 15.
In need of a roster spot for Sunday’s starter, Tom Gorzelanny, who was activated, and having played a man short for the last four games, the Nationals felt it was better to be safe than frivolous with Ankiel’s injury, which is in a difficult area for healing.
“With it being an intercostal, that’s a tough area,” Ankiel said. “It’s touchy. I feel like I could play Tuesday and be ready to play where we have the off day (Monday) but you’re always in that moment where, if something happened, then you’d lose me for another 15 days.”
Ankiel, who took a few swings in the cage Sunday morning, would be eligible to come off the DL on June 30, an off day for the Nationals before they open a 10-game homestand before the All-Star break. He expects to go out to one of the Nationals affiliates on a rehab assignment in the next few days to get some at-bats and get back to game speed.
This will be the second DL stint of the season for Ankiel, who missed 19 games in May with a right wrist sprain. He came off the disabled list May 24 but in the time he’d been gone the Nationals had begun using Roger Bernadina in center field and Laynce Nix hit so well it was tough for him not to be their almost-every day left fielder. He returned to more of a platoon role than when he left.
“I haven’t had at-bats and I think that’s part of it too,” Ankiel said. “I came back and we’re platooning and whatnot so really, there wasn’t a lot of at-bats and stuff like that so with all those things mixed in, I think (DL) is the right call.
“The (intercostal strain) is one of those things you can’t control. The only thing I know is I have the choice to control how I’m going to respond to it, which is to get ready to go.”
Ankiel, who felt the strain on the first play of the game, did say he felt he was able to avoid a more serious injury and lengthy recovery time by getting out of the game Tuesday night before he had an at-bat and catching it relatively early. An intercostal strain can be one of the most difficult to come back from because of the area of the body it’s located in, the upper side and rib area, a concern Ankiel touched on in getting back up to game speed.
“If I dive, at game speed, it’s a lot different than being in a controlled area,” he said. “Get out there and dive and who knows what happens? If I really blow that area out, then I’m in trouble. I’ll take the extra few days, get healthy and get back out there.”