SAN FRANCISCO — The Washington Nationals started Monday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants with a reliever. And their bullpen, already in disarray with the need for Zach Duke to start and Craig Stammen to follow him to the mound as Ross Detwiler nurses an oblique strain, was hit with another significant — and self-inflicted — blow.
Right-hander Ryan Mattheus broke a bone near the fourth knuckle in his pitching hand on Sunday afternoon when he returned to the clubhouse following a five-run inning and slammed his hand, holding his glove, into his locker.
Mattheus did not tell anyone that he was hurting until Monday afternoon, after his hand swelled up when he tried to play catch and he knew he had to inform pitching coach Steve McCatty.
“I was pretty upset and I let the emotions get the best of me,” Mattheus said. “It’s pretty embarrassing. It’s a tough one to swallow. I felt like I let the other 24 guys down on this team; Let the whole Washington Nationals organization down by doing something stupid.
“It’s absolutely something I can control. It’s not like I hurt myself out on the field. I’ve got to do a better job with that.”
Mattheus will return to D.C. on Tuesday to visit with a hand specialist while the Nationals call up reinforcements.
Left-handed reliever Fernando Abad and right-hander Yunesky Maya were summoned from Triple-A Syracuse to take Mattheus’ place and give the Nationals some fresh arms in a bullpen that has been heavily taxed of late. Abad has allowed just two earned runs in 17 innings at Syracuse this season, and can serve the short-relief role the Nationals have lacked a left-hander for all season. Maya, who will likely be long relief insurance, is 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA in eight starts at Triple-A.
Outfielder Eury Perez was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse as the Nationals opted to play down a position player in order to get an extra pitcher on the roster for the time being.
“He felt real bad about it but I wished he’d have said something about what he did,” said manager Davey Johnson, who was not informed until late Monday afternoon and obviously had no choice but to play short for one night. There was no immediate timetable for Mattheus’ return.
“He’s going to be out a while,” Johnson said. “A broken bone in your pitching hand, that’s going to be out a while.”
Duke broke the fourth and fifth metacarpals on his pitching hand in 2011 when he was struck by a line drive. It is a difficult rehab, he said, because you lose all of the arm strength built up over time and it takes a significant amount of time to rebuild it.
“When it’s the throwing hand it’s tough,” Duke said. “You basically lose all the stamina that you built up in your arm so you really have to make sure that you give yourself enough time in a throwing program to build back up the strength and the endurance that you need.
“It’s frustrating. I couldn’t pick up a ball for five weeks. You have to kind of re-establish what you did through the offseason, so it’s kind of a frustrating process.”
After throwing 39 pitches on Sunday, Mattheus would’ve likely been unavailable for Monday’s game anyway. But knowing he was down a pitcher already, and having used both of his long men to get him to the seventh inning, Johnson asked Henry Rodriguez to give him two innings of work.
Rodriguez, who threw 21 pitches on Sunday, allowed two earned runs off three hits and three walks in his two innings on Monday and has now thrown 68 pitches in the past two games alone.