Henry Rodriguez's season came to an unceremonious end Friday morning when the Washington Nationals' reliever had a bone spur repaired and large bone chip removed from his elbow.
Rodriguez, who'd been on the disabled list with a lower back issue since Aug. 2, is not allowed to pick up a baseball for 10-12 weeks. The Nationals expect him to be ready for spring training in 2013.
"He's been pitching with a lot of pain," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "He's big and strong and just kind of hidden that."
It marks the end of an up-and-down season for the right-hander, who possesses some of the most electric stuff on the pitching staff but struggled to harness it. In 35 appearances, Rodriguez had a 5.83 ERA. He threw 29 ⅓ innings, struck out 31 batters but walked 22 and threw 10 wild pitches.
He began the season as one of two closers in the absence of Drew Storen, who was operated on in April for a similar issue, and was successful at first. His productivity in the role began to diminish in May, however, as wildness took its toll, and the Nationals stopped closing with him at the end of that month, installing Tyler Clippard there instead.
He blew three of 12 save opportunities but struggled in a handful of others where Johnson had to summon another reliever before the game slipped away from them.
His season was then twice derailed by other injuries, a right index finger strain when he slammed his hand in the bathroom door of a Miami hotel room, and back soreness that gave the Nationals enough pause that they placed him on the DL again Aug. 2 when Jayson Werth returned from a broken wrist.
It's difficult to discern just how much the elbow, which Johnson said team doctor Wiemi Douoguih told him was "in a lot worse shape than he anticipated," played into his struggles this season. The team was not aware of any elbow soreness until two weeks before he went on the disabled list with the back soreness — and even then, he said it'd feel better once he was loose and warm.
"He's strong and he's probably been used to pitching with discomfort," Johnson said, admitting that the knowledge of an injury like this certainly colors his season somewhat differently. "I can't imagine him complaining even if it was [affecting] his performance. He wasn't going to blame it on anything, didn't want to take the chance of us thinking there was something wrong with him because he's been able to pitch with it. But once you become a closer, no matter how hard it hurts I'm sure you're not going to say anything."
The Nationals are unsure if Rodriguez will be healthy enough to get innings in a winter league this offseason, but they do expect him to be ready for spring training.
"Henry has got great upside," said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who acquired Rodriguez from Oakland as part of an offseason trade before the 2011 season in exchange for Josh Willingham. "He's a power pitcher. And if this injury prevented him from performing at his accustomed level, then that's a good thing. Because when he gets healthy, he should revert back to the guy we saw in spring training and the guy we saw at the beginning of the season."
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