- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Washington Nationals’ pitching staff lost another starter to a season-ending injury Friday night when the team learned right-hander Craig Stammen will need arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.

Team doctor Wiemi Douoguih will perform the operation Sunday, and Stammen will be out six weeks before starting a throwing program that should have him ready for spring training.

Stammen said earlier Friday he didn’t expect to pitch again, regardless of how the MRI on his elbow turned out, because he was two starts away from a preset innings limit.

“I feel bad for Craig. He’s done a good job,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “He actually said it was bothering him as far back as when he was in Triple-A [Syracuse in May]. He just thought he could pitch through it, and he did. He did a good job, but it’s a spur in there that’s got to be removed.”

General manager Mike Rizzo also said right-hander Collin Balester will be shut down for the season with a strain under his rib cage on his left side. The treatment called for Balester to be shut down for two weeks and build back up from there, so Rizzo said the team will send Balester home.

Stammen is the third Nationals starter to have season-ending surgery, following Scott Olsen’s shoulder operation in July and Jordan Zimmermann’s Tommy John surgery in August.

But Rizzo said he wasn’t concerned that the injuries indicated a larger problem with how the Nationals handle pitchers.

“Actually, we had a very good year injurywise,” Rizzo said. “We’ve been very careful with the starting pitchers.

Flores returns

The Nationals’ bench, depleted recently from a rash of injuries, got some help Friday from an unlikely addition - Jesus Flores.

After missing most of the season with a fractured right shoulder, Flores came off the disabled list Friday and will spend the rest of the year with the team. He will continue rehabbing his shoulder - still not strong enough to allow him to catch in a game - and will be available as an emergency pinch hitter.

Flores said he just recently started taking batting practice, so his progression back into a game could be slow. But there’s an outside chance he’ll be able to catch, throw and hit by the end of the season.

Though the injury was expected to keep him out for the rest of the year, the Nationals held out some hope Flores would be able to play in September. He’s here partially because the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League season is done and there’s no activity in Viera, Fla., for Flores to use as part of his rehab, but he could also get a small springboard into winter ball in Venezuela and next season, when he’ll return as the starting catcher.

“I always had the hope to be back before the season ended,” Flores said. “I’m really happy that they’re thinking like me, to have me playing the game. That’s what I am doing right now, trying to get back in shape to play whenever.”

Garate called up

After completing their trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday by acquiring left-hander Victor Garate as the second player in the deal that sent second baseman Ronnie Belliard to the Dodgers, the Nationals wasted no time introducing Garate to the big leagues.

They added the 24-year-old to the major league roster, boosting their bullpen. Garate, who had a 2.04 ERA for the Dodgers’ Class AA affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn., had never reached the majors in five professional seasons.

“Everything was good,” Garate said. “I’m happy for that. That made me straight to the big leagues.”

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