PITTSBURGH -- When the barbell dropped and struck his face Tuesday, it took Hunter Strickland a minute to gain clarity on what just happened.
“I had no idea. I mean, I didn’t know what happened,” Strickland said Wednesday. “Obviously, it hit me pretty good, so it kind of dazed me for a second there. After that, I looked up in the mirror and my nose was crooked and bleeding everywhere, and I just kind of put two and two together, and [realized] I got knocked out by a bar.”
For the second time this season, a Nationals pitcher has sustained an accidental facial injury. Earlier this season, Max Scherzer sustained a broken nose and black eye in a batting practice mishap. This time, it was Strickland, who said he endured a “clean break” of his nose while doing hip exercises in a squat rack at PNC Park. He attached a mobility cord to the barbell to hold it steady as he worked.
“Obviously, that didn’t work out too well,” Strickland said. “When I sat down on the ground to do the hip stuff, I went to reach up and grab the cord, but I guess one of the ropes still got hung behind it. And when I grabbed it, I guess my weight pulled the bar off and crushed me.”
The Nationals’ training and medical staff was on the scene “instantly,” Strickland said, and he was quickly ushered to get X-rays. The clean break meant there wasn’t a high risk associated with it, and since he’s able to breathe regularly, he’ll be available to continue pitching.
“That’s why I’m thrilled it’s not as bad as it could be,” he said. “That’s one of the things that they determined with the X-rays, was just to make sure that the nasal passages were still straight and clear.”
Since being acquired by the Nationals at the Deadline, the 30-year-old righty had allowed a run just once in his eight appearances entering Wednesday, while holding opponents to a .174 batting average over seven innings.
Nats hope for Ross to throw bullpen session Thursday
After being struck by a sharp grounder off the bat of Josh Bell on Tuesday, Joe Ross is still questionable to make his next turn in the rotation Saturday against the Cubs, though manager Dave Martinez said the right-hander was feeling better Wednesday.
“We have nothing set in stone on whether he can pitch or not his next outing,” Martinez said. “We’re going to wait and see.”
In the meantime, the Nationals have kept Erick Fedde fresh to potentially fill that spot if Ross' shin injury continues to linger. Fedde threw a bullpen session Wednesday, which Ross will need to on Thursday to stay on track.
“If he can throw a bullpen tomorrow, then he’ll be good to go,” Martinez said.
Scherzer expected to start Thursday
Martinez said Scherzer, who has been sidelined with a mild rhomboid strain, is “on schedule” to make his start Thursday, though he has not officially been announced as the probable starter. The manager said earlier in the week that Scherzer will likely be kept in the range of 75-80 pitches.
“We definitely have to be aware that we’ve got to keep an eye on him,” Martinez said. “He’s not going to go out there and throw 100 pitches, even though he’ll probably fight me to throw 100 pitches. Like I said, we want him back and want him back for the rest of the season.”