Robles, Harris on IL; McGowin recalled

May 23rd, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals placed center fielder and reliever on the 10-day injured list on Sunday shortly before the Battle of the Beltways finale against the Orioles.

Robles has been sidelined by a right ankle sprain he sustained while running the bases in Chicago on Wednesday. The IL stint is retroactive to Thursday, and there is no corresponding roster move.

Harris continues to battle lingering right hand inflammation. Fellow right-hander Kyle McGowin was recalled from Triple-A Rochester.

Robles' absence to be filled by Stevenson, Harrison
The Nats had been hoping Robles could avoid a stint on the IL after MRIs and X-rays came back negative. He has been receiving treatment, and on Saturday, he took dry swings and hit off a tee.

"We want to give him an opportunity,” manager Dave Martinez said Sunday morning. “Like I said, he's getting better each and every day. When it comes to these sprains, it's weird. For me, it's more pain tolerance than anything else.”

Initially, the team was planning to wait until after its off-day on Monday to make a decision, but the roster move was made 40 minutes before Sunday’s game. The Nationals have been calling on Andrew Stevenson and utility man (and this season’s starting second baseman) Josh Harrison to man center field in Robles’ absence. Harrison hit his first grand slam while making his first career start in center on Saturday.

"As long as nobody gets injured, knock on wood, we're OK,” Martinez said of the Nats’ center-field options. “Stevenson's done well out there. Harrison, I really feel really comfortable putting him out there if we need to. But ... Victor's important to this club, and what he does at center field is kind of hard to replace.”

Robles has not played since Wednesday. He hit .412 (7-for-17) with four RBIs in his last six games prior to the injury.

Hand, Hudson likely to get more work with Harris out
Harris has been trying to pitch through a throwing hand issue that has been hampering him since Spring Training. After beginning the season on the IL, Harris made his 2021 debut on May 4. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in eight relief appearances (six innings) since then. The 10-year veteran deemed his two-run outing on Tuesday against the Cubs as “probably the worst it’s ever been in my career.”

With this hand issue, Harris often experiences discomfort that includes a sensation of pressure, swelling and discoloration. Thoracic outlet syndrome and an original diagnosis of a blood clot have been ruled out. The next step for Harris is to seek further medical attention and visit a hand specialist in Dallas this week.

“It swells up sometimes really bad, sometimes it doesn’t,” Martinez said Sunday. “He goes through a treatment thing with the trainers after every time he pitches. But by the next day, it’s normal. I think by the next few hours, it goes down and it’s normal.

“I wish we knew exactly why that happens; I’m not a doctor. But it’s something that we said, he wants to know what’s going on, but he can pitch through it. We’ll just have to wait and see and hope that for some unknown reason, it goes away or it’s not as bad. We just don’t know.”

Harris’ absence leaves a void in the Nationals’ bullpen. The plan going into the season was for Harris, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson and Tanner Rainey to tackle the late innings. Hudson has been spot-on with a 1.13 ERA, while Hand (2-2, 3.86 ERA) has struggled to close games consistently and Rainey (0-2) has posted a 7.30 ERA. Rainey is on the COVID-19 injured list.