- - Friday, August 17, 2018

The Nationals got more bad news on the pitching front Friday, as right-handed starter Jeremy Hellickson appears headed to the disabled list.

“He has a bad sprain. He is going to miss a start,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said before Friday’s home game with the Marlins. “We are going to have to put him on the DL. We will probably wait until tomorrow.”

Hellickson injured his pitching hand while covering home plate after he threw a wild pitch in the fifth inning in Wednesday’s game in St. Louis against the Cardinals.

“He is still pretty sore. We will have to wait and see. Hopefully, treatment will get (it) better quick. He said he can’t flex,” Martinez said of Hellickson.

A native of Iowa, Hellickson has been perhaps the second-most dependable starter since May for the Nationals even though he averages just under five innings per start.

Hellickson is 5-3 with an ERA of 3.57 in 18 starts this year, having allowed 76 hits in 88.1 innings with 64 strikeouts and 19 walks.

It is possible that Stephen Strasburg, on the disabled list since July 25, could fill the rotation spot left by Hellickson. But a lot of that depends on the bullpen session Strasburg is slated to throw at Nationals Park on Saturday, according to Martinez.

Strasburg (neck injury) is 6-7 with an ERA of 3.90 in 14 starts this year. The Nationals are hoping he could start at home Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies, but that is far from a sure thing.

Sean Doolittle, the regular closer, has been on the disabled list July 10 with left toe inflammation. He has 22 saves and an ERA of 1.45, and was slated to throw a bullpen session Friday.

“Hopefully he is getting close. He has been frustrated with this whole deal,” Martinez said.

The third-place Nationals (61-61) were eight games back of first-place Atlanta and 6 ½ games behind second-place Philadelphia going into Friday’s game.

Off the field, the Nationals introduced its WGL Energy bullpen cart that will be used for both the home and visiting team at Nationals Park starting Friday night.

Washington becomes the third big league team to use a bullpen cart to bring relievers into the game. The other two teams are the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers.

Until this year bullpen carts had not been used in the majors since 1995, according to the Nationals. The peak of popularity for the bullpen cart was in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the team.

What does Martinez think of the bullpen cart?

“If it makes the game quicker, awesome,” he said.

The second game of the series with the Marlins is Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Lefty Tommy Milone (1-1, 5.24) is slated to start for Washington, with lefty Wei-Yin Chen (4-9, 5.32) getting the ball for the Marlins.

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