- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2015

When Craig Stammen found out that he could miss the rest of the 2015 season with a torn muscle in his right arm, his initial reaction wasn’t resignation or despair. Far from it.

“Bring it on,” he said. “I got another challenge to try to overcome. It’s a part of my career and maybe something that will define it later on.”

Stammen was upbeat Friday when asked about the partially torn flexor muscle in his right arm, which will require surgery and cause him to miss an extended period of time for the first time in his major league career. He said team doctor Wiemi Douoguih will perform the procedure Sunday, and his timetable for recovery will be dependent on the extent of the damage.

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“We’ll see,” Stammen said. “I’m praying for something that’s good. But you never know. It could be the rest of the year, it could be more than that.”

The Nationals originally termed Stammen’s injury as “musculotendinous” in nature, meaning that both tendon and muscle are affected. Stammen believes a muscle in his arm is partially torn.

Stammen was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday for the first time in his major league career. He felt pain in his arm while pitching Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, took off Monday and felt the pain return Tuesday, when he threw seven pitches against the Boston Red Sox.

The 31-year-old plans to stay around the team while working through the rehabilitation process, joking that he’ll take on an increased role on the coaching staff.

“I feel like I’m kind of fully invested at this point,” Stammen said. “I’ve been here long enough and been around these guys too much to desert them at this point. Any encouragement that I can pass along will probably be what I’ll be doing. But I’ll be seen from and not heard from probably.”

Up to this point, Stammen had been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball. Over the past three years, he pitched more than 241 innings and worked in a variety of roles, from long relief to recording one or two outs in an appearance. He missed two to three weeks in 2009, undergoing surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, but has not missed significant time otherwise.

“It’s been like that my whole life, really,” Stammen said. “I’ve always been able to throw and throw and throw and never get sore and always be able to go out that next day. So I think the most frustrating part about it is [that] it finally caught up to me. Even though I didn’t see it coming at all. There were no symptoms or anything like that. It just kind of happened. I guess that’s the most disappointing thing: Just not being able to take the ball for my teammates.”

In Stammen’s absence, the Nationals will likely move Tanner Roark, their fifth starter in 2014, into a long relief role. Recent minor league callups Rafael Martin and Felipe Rivero are each capable of pitching multiple innings, as well.

“They’re all resilient,” manager Matt Williams said. “They’re all used to being in the bullpen. With the exception of Blake [Treinen] probably. He’s still learning the position. And now Felipe. But that being said, they’ve worked through those circumstances where we’d have to put them in there in spring training, and gotten used to it.”

Stammen said he’s received an outpouring of texts and phone calls from family, friends and teammates since news of the injury has spread. He feels fortunate, and confident that the he will be back on the field in due time, with a strong arm and new perspective.

“Yeah, it makes you realize why you play it,” Stammen said. “I’ll definitely miss it. Hopefully it’ll just make me come back stronger.”

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