NEW YORK — Ross Detwiler is dealing with stiffness in the left side of his lower back, manager Davey Johnson said Saturday, and the left-hander could miss his next start if he is unable to throw his between-starts bullpen session in the coming days.
Detwiler missed a month with a right oblique strain earlier this season, but Johnson said this issue is on the opposite side.
That revelation, coming after Detwiler allowed three runs (two earned) off six hits in five innings of Friday night’s 6-4 victory over the Mets, resulted in right-hander Erik Davis arriving at Citi Field early Saturday morning from Triple-A Syracuse.
The Nationals decided late Friday night to options utility man Jeff Kobernus back to Triple-A and recall Davis as bullpen insurance for a few reasons.
With rookie Taylor Jordan making his debut on Saturday, and long man Ross Ohlendorf having pitched in relief of Detwiler on Friday, Davis gives Johnson an extra arm in case Jordan is unable to take the Nationals deep into the game, or it goes extra innings.
“I just wanted to make sure I had enough pitching,” Johnson said.
But Detwiler’s injury added another layer to the decision, too.
If Detwiler cannot throw his bullpen session, which would be scheduled for Sunday or Monday, he will likely be forced to skip his next start. In that case, Ohlendorf would start in his place on Wednesday vs. the Milwaukee Brewers, which means Johnson will have to stay away from using his long man in the interim.
“It’s not the same side as the last oblique, so we’ll have to see,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they can do their magic in that training room and he’ll be able to throw his side. If he can’t, there’s a chance he could miss a start.
“Back issues, they can come on you. With his big leg kick at times, he puts a lot of torque on it. Hopefully he’ll be fine…(Calling up an extra arm and making contingency plans) is just what you do to be on the safe side.”
Detwiler was out from May 15 until June 13 with a right oblique strain. Before he was placed on the disabled list, Detwiler was averaging close to six innings per start and had a 2.76 ERA. In his four starts since coming off the DL, he is averaging closer to five innings and has a 7.32 ERA.
As for Davis, who was optioned back to Triple-A on June 13, he said the time he’s spent in the minor leagues since has been spent working on the things the Nationals instructed him to fine tune when they sent him down. Mostly, that’s been working on commanding his curveball.
The Nationals will have more roster maneuvering to do in the coming days as Bryce Harper remains on track to return to the team on Monday.
They could’ve carried an extra arm until then, and sent a reliever back when Harper was ready to come off the disabled list, but if Detwiler is going to be forced to miss a start it may complicate things.