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UPDATE: Gonzalez MRI shows only shoulder inflammation

May 18, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

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Updated at 6:43 p.m.

An enhanced MRI test of Gio Gonzalez’s injured shoulder showed no structural damage, only inflammation, giving the Nationals reason to believe the left-hander’s first career stint on the disabled list will be a short one.

Gonzalez, who was placed on the 15-day DL Sunday morning, was examined by an orthopedist and received relatively good news. Despite his recent struggles and the admission his arm didn’t feel 100 percent healthy, he doesn’t appear to be seriously injured.

“Tests came back great,” manager Matt Williams said after the Nationals’ 6-3 win over the Mets. “We’ll build him back up, and we’ll love to have him when he’s ready.”

Gonzalez will be shut down for the next four or five days to let the inflammation subside, but he could resume throwing after that. If all goes well, he could return once he’s eligible to come off the DL on June 2.

“I don’t have a great concern level for it right now, just because of the way Gio said he felt after the game,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Sunday morning, before learning the MRI results. “The arm speed was there. The velocity was there. And that type of thing are all precursors to not to have that much worry.”

Gonzalez had never spent any time on the DL in his seven major-league seasons, making 161 starts without ever missing a turn due to injury. But after two straight rough outings in the last week, it became clear something wasn’t right.

The 28-year-old gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings last Sunday in Oakland, then allowed five runs in three innings Saturday against the Mets. The 12 combined earned runs allowed matched the most in his career in back-to-back starts, and the 7 1/3 total innings pitched were the fewest he has thrown since he was still emerging as a big-league starter with the Athletics in 2009.

Though his velocity was fine, Gonzalez admitted after Saturday’s game he was having trouble with his arm slot, suggesting a shoulder ailment was preventing him from getting on top of the ball as he normally would. He first acknowledged some shoulder discomfort in an April 24 start, but had pitched well since then until this recent rough stretch.

“Uh, realistically, arm was dropping a lot,” he said Saturday when asked directly whether anything was going on with him physically. “I guess we’ll see.”

Rather than wait for the results of the dye-injected MRI, known as an arthrogram, the Nationals went ahead and placed Gonzalez on the 15-day DL before Sunday’s game.

“[The doctor] gave him a strength test and all that stuff, and he passed a strength test,” Rizzo said. “Combine having a little soreness yesterday with having a little soreness a month ago, we thought this was the prudent way to do it. Give him the arthrogram so we can see exactly what’s going on in there. Put him on the DL for 15 days, give him some rest and relaxation, and once we find out what’s on the MRI we’ll take it from there.”

The Nationals recalled right-hander Ryan Mattheus from Class AAA Syracuse for Sunday’s game, giving them an eight-man bullpen for now, but they’ll need someone to take Gonzalez’s rotation spot on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Right-hander Blake Treinen, who impressed in a spot start against the Dodgers earlier this month, is currently on schedule to pitch Thursday for Syracuse and would be a logical replacement for Gonzalez against the Pirates. Prospect A.J. Cole just tossed seven scoreless innings Saturday and boasts a 2.23 ERA at Class AA Harrisburg, so he would be on schedule as well, though he would need to be added to the club’s 40-man roster.

Williams also mentioned right-hander Taylor Jordan, who has allowed only one run in 11 innings since his demotion to Syracuse, as a possible candidate. Jordan would be pitching on two extra days’ rest if called up to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

“We’ll probably make that decision later on,” Rizzo said. “We brought up an extra reliever until we need a starter, and we’ll make the decision in a couple days.”

Gonzalez becomes the eighth member of the Nationals’ projected Opening Day roster to go on the DL in the season’s first two months. Fellow right-hander Doug Fister, catcher Wilson Ramos, center fielder Denard Span and reserve outfielder Scott Hairston have since returned, but left fielder Bryce Harper, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman Adam LaRoche remain sidelined.

“It’s part of baseball,” Rizzo said. “That’s why you build depth in the organization. We’re not going to (use an) alibi, we’re not going to use it as an excuse, we haven’t mentioned it. We’ve got our 25, this is our 25, and we’re going to go to battle with those guys. It’s time for guys to pick up the slack and play like they’re supposed to play.”

  1. scmargenau - May 18, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    I hope it’s Blake ….

  2. cayucosbaseballconservancy - May 18, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Seems odd having an exclusively right-handed rotation in the NL East. You’d think Detwiler would make more sense.

    • masterfishkeeper - May 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Well, the Mets and Phillies have a lot of fairly good lefthanded bats, but the Braves have become tilted more to the right.

    • 6ID20 - May 18, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Det is no longer a starting pitcher. Hasn’t pitched longer than 2 innings in a game since last July 3rd.

  3. originalnatsfan - May 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    Hate to see this happen, but in a way glad his bad outings have a cause.
    I’d like to see Blake get the chance, too

  4. rayvil01 - May 18, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    This iscreally shaping up to be a Valley Forge kind of season. I give Rizxo a lot of credit for having kids ready to go. But one would hope this settles out and we can get the Ipening Day lineup back on the field. Over/under July 4?

    • rayvil01 - May 18, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Sorry for typos…phone.

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    I’m still with NatsJack on this. The problem might be above Gio’s shoulder.

    • Candide - May 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      What, did Gio all of a sudden become a head case, after all these years?

      When was he ever a JZimm, ice-in-his-veins type?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:20 PM

        True Candide but he’s also ramped up the problems. Screaming at teammates in Oakland wasn’t missed by Rizzo.

      • laddieblahblah - May 18, 2014 at 7:13 PM

        I think the change in his demeanor was a hint of something he suspected might be very serious. Gio has always been a guy who had a zest for the game, and who always spoke of his teammates’ contributions to a win before his own. When an elite athlete, like a ML pitcher, starts having trouble with a balky shoulder, all kinds of possibilities present themselves, most of them really bad. He’s an emotional guy, and I can see him imagining his way of life suddenly at risk, through no fault of his own.

        Inflammation can cause a lot of difficulty. If that’s all it is, he’ll be fine. Naturally he will be concerned until that shoulder feels 100% again, and here’s hoping it does, soon.

        One other thing that occurred to me during that game with the Mets was the PED scandal from the winter of 2012. Gio was the first guy cleared in that scandal – maybe the only one, but I don’t recall if anyone else got a clean bill of health besides him.

        Bartolo Colon was one of the cheaters, and got caught. He’s still pitching in the bigs at age 41. Gio was the clean one, and he has to compete against a known cheat who obviously benefitted from cheating, for who knows how many years of taking who knows what.

        That sticks in my craw.

  6. Jeff - May 18, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Laughs would follow with laffey
    Suggestion ??? Lol

  7. Pmz - May 18, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    What’s the point if even keeping Det on the roster if not for scenarios like this? Can’t go with all righties.

  8. micksback1 - May 18, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    hard to believe Nats are only 1/2 game back with all of this. I do think Gio’s problems are in his head, not his arm

  9. micksback1 - May 18, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    I hope it is Blake as well, not happy to see Mattheus back, he is a total head case and not very good. a total liability

  10. rmoore446 - May 18, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    I think this makes sense. He still has his velocity but something was hurting his mechanics that impacted his ability to locate his pitches. Hope a short DL stay will correct the problem. We sure need a healthy Gio.

  11. Doc - May 18, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    As far as performing relief pitchers at Syracuse, don’t think that Mathteus is #1 at the moment.

    He might have more ‘big league’ experience, if that’s what the issue is.

    In any case, Mattheus is probably just a place-holder until they bring up a SP next week.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      Agreed. Mattheus gets sent back in 4 days. Nice to have known you!

      • Doc - May 18, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        So Ghost what do you think about SPs down on the farm??

        Blake is good, but there are some guys that are more ‘stretched out’ at both AAA and AA.

        Tatusko and Hill at ‘Cuse are doing very well.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        Big problem is guys in 40 man have no spot. Treinen would be the guy or Taylor Jordan.

        Treinen has stuff but he has to develop his secondary pitches. I worry about him going 6 innings.

  12. Eric - May 18, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    People, just because the shoulder is closer to the head than the elbow doesn’t mean shoulder injuries are mental problems in disguise. First Zim, with well-chronicled shoulder injuries and arthritis, and now Gio. Hilarious!

    Get well soon, Gio!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Right or wrong this is a very “mental” game and I was a middle infielder with Mike Morse size and I was a mental case who coukdnt control where that ball was going. Sure, I had shoulder issues and my orthopedic ensured me I was fine. It led to a position change which didn’t work out fir me. I’m old enough where I can admit it and it sucks.

      Don’t be naive enough to think everything is physical.

      • Eric - May 18, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        Where did I ever say it’s “always physical?” With Dan Haren, for instance, it was as clear as it gets from the outside that it wasn’t physical.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        You didn’t. There are some here who I have discussed my own struggles with throwing a baseball. Mine started with a SLAP tear and kept thinking it was physical and the Doc told me I was fine. No MRIs back in those days.

        Every time I see a Rick Ankiel, a Henry Rodriguez or Chuck Knoblauch or Bobby Smith in High School, it tells you the game is so mental.

        Something that seems so simple as a throwing motion or arm slot. Until you’ve been there, you have no idea.

      • laddieblahblah - May 18, 2014 at 7:20 PM

        “(T)he game is so mental.”

        I don’t think most people appreciate how much of a component that is. You can see how much Gio changed over the past 2 games. I am sure he has some sort of problem – they say it is only inflammation. He didn’t lose any velocity, and his curve had great movement, but he had no command.

        Either way, he needs some time off. If they don’t find anything serious, he’ll be good as new. If they do find something, then he needs to be sitting, anyway, before it gets worse.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        Well said as usual Laddie. You get it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      “@AdamKilgoreWP: Ryan Zimmerman is catching fly balls in the outfield now. It is definitely not “conditioning.”

      Yes, he took balls at 1st base too.

      • nelliefox - May 18, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        Good news with Zim in LF then we can keep watching Espinosa showing up his “new” approach at the plate.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        I detect some sarcasm in there.

      • NatsLady - May 18, 2014 at 9:58 PM

        Man, I loved Nellie Fox…

    • Doc - May 18, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      Agreed Eric.

      As the shoulder goes, so goes the elbow. Pitcher’s shoulder motion controls the pitcher’s elbow.

      Don’t wanna mess too much with a sore shoulder.

      From reports over the past few yeas, Gio is very diligent about his off-season workouts—-lets hope it all pays off for him with his current MRI findings.

      Dude has gone 7 years in the Bigs without being on the DL. That kinda speaks for itself.

    • scmargenau - May 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Huh
      ???

  13. David Proctor - May 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    I am amazed at how many people here are insistent on making everything mental. Nobody is EVER allowed to have a physical reason for their struggles, it’s always them being a headcase. I guess that fits the narrative.

    It was clear to anyone paying attention that Gio was not finishing his pitches. FP was harping on it repeatedly at the time, so this is not hindsight. He pretty clearly had a physical issue. And yes, you can throw 94 with shoulder stiffness.

    • adcwonk - May 18, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      +1

      • Doc - May 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        ++1 , or is it +2

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      I expect Gio’s shoulder was aching but he hasn’t seemed right for a while. It was the yelling at teammates that is more alarming.

      Yesterday’s effort was frustrating to watch. Only Gio knows the real issue at hand.

      • Doc - May 18, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        Ghost, I still wish we knew who or what the yelling was about.

        Desi thought is was just Gio, being Gio.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        Doc, yep Gio being Gio but Rizzo doesn’t miss much. 2 poor starts in a row where he couldn’t hit spots and Rizzo is looking for answers.

        Haren went through a similar stretch without the yelling at teammates.

    • scmargenau - May 18, 2014 at 12:39 PM

      Let’s see what MRI shows

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        Are they going to tell us anything? No unless there really is something serious. They need a reason to put him on the DL.

  14. Hiram Hover - May 18, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    This sucks.

    That is all.

  15. David Proctor - May 18, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Kilgore and Mark making it sound like AJ Cole is a possibility. He pitched 7 shutout innings yesterday, so it would be his day. The problem is he’s not on the 40 man roster, so they’d have to make space somehow.

    • nats128 - May 18, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      That seems to be the problem with him and Taylor Hill and some others.

      Sounds like Ohlendorf isnt ready.

      Treinen and Taylor Jordan could both fit. Taylor Jordan would have extra rest.

  16. Doc - May 18, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Maybe DFAing Mattheus would be a start to making room on the 40 man.

    Guy hasn’t been the same since he lost that fight to his locker.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      Any more moves to the DL are going to be painful.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      I’d rather see a trade to Houston for a low level prospect.

  17. natsfan1a - May 18, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    Glad that the test showed no structural damage and hope the rest will help.

    Haven’t been following comments or posts and wouldn’t want to try to get in Gio’s head, but I would guess that having one’s shoulder barking and also having the shoulder not work as well as it had in the past could make one cranky and inclined to bark at somebody when under pressure, as in a game situation. But what do I know? (Answer: not a whole lot. :-))

    • Section 222 - May 18, 2014 at 7:27 PM

      Don’t sell yourself short 1a. Your speculation is just as valuable as all the other speculation we are treated to in here.

      • natsfan1a - May 18, 2014 at 7:46 PM

        Gee thanks, 222. I think. :-)

      • Joe Seamhead - May 18, 2014 at 7:57 PM

        More valuable then many in my humble opinion.

    • laddieblahblah - May 18, 2014 at 7:31 PM

      “I would guess that having one’s shoulder barking and also having the shoulder not work as well as it had in the past could make one cranky and inclined to bark at somebody when under pressure, as in a game situation.”

      I think you nailed it, especially in a guy who had never had a physical problem before in his entire career. And he’s an emotional guy. Someone else might go to a corner and brood. Harper goes into the tunnel and breaks his bat on the wall. Gio goes off at the mouth. The Cubbies had a guy who used to go after his teammates in the dugout. Can’t remember who it was, but he really went after them, like he was going to beat their brains out. Was it Garza?

      Anyway, give the guy his space and let’s see how it plays out.

  18. natsfan1a - May 18, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    Are you thinking of Zambrano, perhaps?

    “The Cubbies had a guy who used to go after his teammates in the dugout. Can’t remember who it was, but he really went after them, like he was going to beat their brains out. Was it Garza?”

    • Doc - May 18, 2014 at 8:12 PM

      Definitely Zambrano, who is not normal.

      In one dust up, Zambrano went after his catcher, Michael Barrett who is now a coach in the minors with the Nats.

      Barrett broke in with the Expos as a SS and was subsequently made into a C. Hit .300 his first year, and not much thereafter.

      • natsfan1a - May 18, 2014 at 8:28 PM

        Yes, and Zambrano got into it with Derrek Lee, too.

  19. rabbit433 - May 19, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    The problem might be Gio. He’d make good trade bait.

  20. zmunchkin - May 19, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    I wonder if calling up Mattheus means they are considering Det for Gio’s starts. I know that they could send Mattheus down when they need a starter, but it would be good to have a lefty starter.

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