Injury Concerns Surround Three Nats

The Nationals may be without three key players in the very near future. There were already concerns about Nick Johnson and Tony Armas and Tuesday night's outing by Livan Hernandez has some thinking that he could be hurt, too.

RHP Tony Armas and 1B Nick Johnson were sent home to Washington on Tuesday to undergo an MRIs. Armas will have an MRI done on his right forearm, while Johnson will have an MRI of his aching lower back.

Armas, who has failed to make it out of the fourth inning in each of his last two starts, complained of some soreness following Monday's loss in Boston. The club looks at the MRI as strictly precautionary, but given his injury history, didn't want to take any chances.

Johnson was sent home to Washington on Tuesday to undergo an MRI on his strained lower back. Johnson hasn't played since Saturday, and his back hasn't gotten any better. He wasn't expected to return until Friday at the earliest, so the Nationals decided to have him checked out now and let him rest at home.

There also appears to be something wrong with Livan Hernandez. The Nationals only wish they knew what it was.

The ace right-hander suffered through one of the worst starts of his career Tuesday night, giving up six runs in just 1 2/3 innings. It matched the shortest outing of his career.

Hernandez is now 5-8 with a 5.64 ERA, leaving everyone scrambling to figure out what's wrong with him. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire noted that Hernandez's fastball was barely exceeding 80 mph, perhaps an indication that Hernandez is injured.

"It's very difficult to pitch in that velocity," St. Claire said. "There's maybe two guys in major league baseball, left-handers, who are doing that. It's very difficult for a right-hander to do that."

Hernandez, who underwent right knee surgery last winter, insists that he feels fine. He also believes he has enough time to turn his season back around.

NATS NOTES:

  • 2B/OF Marlon Anderson was in the lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday night, getting a rare start. Anderson also hit cleanup, he said, for the first time since Little League. Manager Frank Robinson didn't want to shake up the rest of his lineup much against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and he didn't want rookie 3B Ryan Zimmerman hitting fourth. So he decided to go with Anderson, who entered the game hitting .256 with two homers and nine RBIs in a mostly pinch-hitting role.
  • RHP Jason Bergmann arrived at Fenway Park at 5 p.m. Tuesday and was immediately put to work. The rookie reliever, who was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans to help bolster an overworked bullpen, was needed in the second inning against the Red Sox after starter RHP Livan Hernandez was knocked around. Bergmann wound up throwing 38 pitches, which means he may not be available to pitch again Wednesday.

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