- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BOSTON — Tony Armas Jr.’s recent struggles on the mound may be health-related after all.

Armas, who lasted just 3-2/3 innings Monday night, was sent back to Washington yesterday to undergo an MRI on his right forearm. The Nationals called the move precautionary, but Armas did complain of soreness in the back of his forearm near his elbow following Monday’s loss to the Boston Red Sox.

It was Armas’ third straight poor outing, the second straight in which he couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire couldn’t detect any drastic problems with his throwing motion against Boston, but several club officials noticed that he wasn’t in top form.

“He hasn’t had his real good stuff the last couple of times,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “He just has a little soreness in the forearm-type area. It’s no big deal, we’re not really concerned about it. … He obviously can pitch. He went out there. But we want it gone.”

This is only the latest in Armas’ lengthy history of injuries. He battled shoulder problems for more than two years and in recent weeks had complained of a bad back, which could have caused him to put more stress on his arm.

Armas will be examined today by team orthopedist Ben Shaffer. The club is calling to the injury a sore forearm, but there was concern yesterday that it could extend to his elbow.

At the very least, it looks like the Nationals will skip Armas’ next turn in the rotation. With John Patterson expected to come off the disabled list from his own forearm injury Friday, the club was going to have to remove someone from the rotation.

So the Armas injury could solve that problem.

“I don’t need anyone to solve my problem like this,” manager Frank Robinson said.

MRI for Johnson

First baseman Nick Johnson joined Armas on the trip home yesterday. Johnson, who hasn’t played since Saturday, will also undergo an MRI on his lower back to determine the extent of the injury.

Johnson wasn’t expecting to play in this series, and when Bowden saw him at the team hotel yesterday morning, “he looked like he was struggling to carry a cup of coffee.”

So Johnson was sent home to be examined by Shaffer. The veteran first baseman has a history of injuries, but had remained healthy this year, playing in all of Washington’s first 70 games.

“We’re playing short-handed as it is,” Bowden said. “We’re sticking with the cautious side. Nick wasn’t going to play today or tomorrow, there’s no reason to be here, so let’s go back [and get it checked out].”

Extra bases

Alfonso Soriano had his right hand wrapped in a large ice pack before batting practice yesterday. “It’s nothing,” said Soriano, who struck out three times Monday night. “Just a little sore, but it’s not too big.” …

Right-handed reliever Jason Bergmann was formally recalled from Class AAA New Orleans before last night’s game. Bergmann, who had a 5.91 ERA in seven previous games with Washington, was pitching well for the Zephyrs, with a 2.27 ERA and four saves in 19 games. Bowden said he also thought strongly about promoting right-hander Roy Corcoran, who has a 1.74 ERA and five saves in nine games. …

Infielder Brendan Harris was optioned back to New Orleans to make room for Bergmann. Harris, though, was still at Fenway Park yesterday because the Zephyrs had an off-day. He’ll join them today.

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