Healy diagnosed with spinal stenosis

June 18th, 2019

SEATTLE -- As Mariners first baseman stood at his locker on Monday afternoon explaining how he’d been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and would be needing an epidural to ease the pain and allow him to begin rehab, teammate Braden Bishop sat several lockers away talking about the lacerated spleen that hospitalized him two weeks ago and has put the remainder of his season in question.

Such is the state of the Mariners' M*A*S*H unit at the moment that nowhere to be seen was outfielder Mitch Haniger, who is just beginning to regain his feet after a ruptured testicle sidelined him two days after Bishop’s injury.

Also missing was right-hander Felix Hernandez, who was having his right shoulder tested by the team doctor after feeling fatigue during his first Minor League rehab outing on Friday in San Antonio.

Healy just returned from seeing Dr. Robert Watkins, a spinal specialist in Los Angeles who recommended the epidural. The first baseman will undergo that procedure on Tuesday in Seattle as he hopes to alleviate the lower back pain that has sidelined him since May 21.

“After four weeks of nothing getting better, I was looking for answers and went down there and got as much [information] as we could,” Healy said. “I have a little spinal stenosis, a little narrowing of the cavity and it’s pinching the nerve a little.

“They’re saying I’m getting referred pain to my lower right back,” he said. “Obviously not ideal, but it’s something I need to take care of because I would like my back to be healthy for the rest of my life. It’s something a lot of people live with. Unfortunately, when it flares up it’s pretty uncomfortable. Being in a very rotational sport, that was aggravating it a lot.”

Healy said the epidural won’t cure the issue, but it will ease the pain and allow him to begin rehabbing his back properly. The 27-year-old will head to Arizona to begin that process afterward, and manager Scott Servais expects he’ll be sidelined at least 3-4 more weeks.

But Healy isn’t putting any timetable on his potential return.

“I did that the first couple weeks and I was really stressing myself about how badly I wanted to get back on the field,” he said. “I never wanted to go on the IL, in general. The fact this ended up being this long of a thing has just been frustrating. This is not a fun process for anybody. Obviously the spine is not something we want to mess with, but if we rehab it properly, this should never be a problem again.”

Meanwhile, Bishop is just getting back on his feet after undergoing surgery to repair a blood vessel in his spleen that was torn when he was hit by a fastball in the ribs in a game with Triple-A Tacoma two weeks ago.

He didn’t know there was a problem until four days later, after being called up by the Mariners and feeling intense pain and nausea while in center field midway through his first start.

“I’ve been hit a lot. It felt like a bruise,” Bishop said. “It didn’t hurt to hit or throw or run. I was like, 'As long as it doesn’t affect my play, I’m good.' But come the fourth inning of that that game against Houston and I couldn’t stand up straight, I knew now was time to say something.

“And we still didn’t figure it out 'til the next day. It was just the culmination of constant bleeding that filled up my stomach to the point where I couldn’t function anymore.”

The outfielder needs to regain weight after being unable to eat much for more than a week and hasn’t been cleared to begin running or doing anything that would jar his body, but he came into the clubhouse to at least hang out with his teammates on Monday as they returned from a 10-day road trip.

When he might play again, however, remains uncertain.

“Obviously any time you’re dealing with an organ, they don’t want to rush it,” Bishop said. “This is the one injury I’ve had where I don’t want to rush it either. Luckily they’ve fixed the problem. I’m sure it will be a slow recovery. But if I can get back in 6-8 weeks or something like that, I’d be happy with that and get two months of the season.”

Worth noting

• Closer Hunter Strickland, who had a setback during his live batting-practice session last week while returning from a strained right lat muscle, will resume playing catch this week after an MRI exam showed no new damage.

• Relievers Connor Sadzeck (right elbow), Chasen Bradford (right elbow) and Brandon Brennan (back spasm) are all expected to begin playing catch in the next few days as they start returning from issues that landed them on the 10-day injured list over the past two weeks.

• Reliever Sam Tuivailala will resume a Minor League rehab stint later this week after being sidelined for three weeks with some shoulder fatigue during his return from Achilles tendon surgery.