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Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler is back from his meeting with back specialist Robert Watkins - a trip out to the doctor’s clinic in Los Angeles on Wednesday – and is now recovering from what was diagnosed as a herniated disc.
Watkins told Detwiler he does not need surgery and did not administer any shots during their appointment. If all goes well over the next few weeks while he rests the injury, he should be able to return in early September.
“They say he’s the best back guy in the world, so that’s why I went out there,” Detwiler said. “I didn’t really know what to expect and he kind of talked me through it and I don’t have to have surgery so that’s the number one thing right now.”
Detwiler - who hasn’t pitched since July 3 – said he will do core exercises in the meantime while he rests his back. He won’t be able to throw for a while, but wants to heal the right way this time and not rush his way back. Trying to power through the pain may have slowed down his recovery in the first place.
“I just felt like there was something off and I was trying to fight through it, which could’ve made it worse,” he said. “So it’s something I kind of have to sit back and say ‘If this ever happens again, you just have to, you just can’t try to fight through something like that.’ I think we took the right step the other day.”
Detwiler is 2-7 this season with a 4.04 ERA through 13 starts.
Drew Storen to the minors?
The Nationals plan to activate relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus as the 26th man from the disabled list on Friday for their doubleheader against the New York Mets, and later in the night will have to decide who goes back down to make the roster an even 25.
Davey Johnson could go in many different directions, and one of those possibilities could be Drew Storen. Storen has options remaining on his contract and has struggled this season with a 5.40 ERA through 46 appearances.
Before Thursday’s game, Johnson discussed the possibility.
“I don’t think anything’s off the table,” he said. “Anything’s possible. I’m an optimist and I have a lot of patience. I don’t give up on people. I mean this has been a long time. He had 43 saves, he pitched great. Guys hit .180 on him from both sides, now they’re hitting .330 and .250.”
Johnson was referring to Storen’s splits this season against righties and lefties. Right-handed hitters are batting .253 off him this year while left-handers are batting .333. Those are both up from his career numbers of .220 and .252.
As a pitcher who once enjoyed great success with 43 saves in 2011, sending Storen down could give him some time to work through his troubles. It doesn’t appear to be a physical issue as no injury has been reported, maybe Storen just needs to clear his mind and regain confidence.
Johnson acknowledged Thursday it could be all in Storen’s head.
“I think the physical side is controlled by the mental side,” Johnson said. “He had never had any adversity, and then he had the arm injury last year. Coming back after that he struggled a little bit, then got it going pretty good. This year he’s struggled a little bit dealing with the new role, it affected him and how his way of preparing was totally different. “
Storen was removed from the closer role this offseason after blowing the save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. The Nats decided to shore up the position with more experience, signing veteran Rafael Soriano to a two-year free agent deal.
Having the role of closer taken away from Storen – a closer in college and through the minors – is probably the biggest reason for his downfall, so says Davey.
“That was a big adjustment for him,” Johnson said. “Closing as far as mentally is the easiest because if you’re ahead, it’s you. This year is different.”
Johnson himself likes his relief pitchers to know their roles and be comfortable in them, that way they know what’s coming when he places a call to the bullpen.
“To me it’s always mental,” he said. “I try to have the pitching staff and the bullpen mentally knowing when they’re going to pitch. I can look down there and see them loosening up or playing catch with the right fielder, knowing it’s them.”
Johnson said Storen adjusting to his new role has caused some “engine blowups,” it’s thrown him a bit off track. Now Johnson wants to see Storen get back to what made him the effective closer he once was.
“In ’11 one of the things he was really good at was he located the ball good. He had good stuff, but he located it. Mentally when you don’t locate, sometimes you’re not full committed to it,” he said.
Johnson has made no indication Storen will be the move after Friday’s second game, but clearly has thought about it. He also said sending Mattheus back down is another possibility.