The fact that there even was a problem didn't make much sense to Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams as he explained to reporters after Gio Gonzalez's three-inning, 84-pitch outing on Saturday afternoon.
"I can't put a finger on that because I don't know," the first-year manager said when asked if it was a lingering issue with the shoulder that Gonzalez experience tightness in last month.
"There's no difference in velocity. He's running it in there at 94 mph, it doesn't feel like that. He had a little tight shoulder earlier this year, but has continued to pitch and tells us that he feels good. I don't know. I don't see that though."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said the same this morning, after the Nats announced that the 28-year-old left-hander was being placed on the 15-Day DL with left elbow inflammation after back-to-back outings in which he struggled with his command and got him hard, continually falling behind hitters throughout his time on the mound.
Rizzo said he was waiting to see what the MRI on Gonzalez's shoulder said, but he wasn't too concerned.
"I thought he looked fine," the Nats' General Manager said, echoing Williams' take on Gonzalez's stuff on Saturday. "I mean, his arm speed was good. His rotation rates, spin rate was fine, it was as good as it's always been on his breaking ball and his fastball velocity was good. The command part of it, which sometimes comes and goes with Gio anyways was the thing that was causing him an issue."
"The level of concern," Rizzo said, "we'll find out more about it today. I don't have a great concern level for it right now, just because of the way Gio said he felt after the game and like I said, the arm speed was there, the velocity was there, and those types of things are good precursors to not have that much worry. But we'll see after the MRI."
When the Nationals received the results of the MRI, they got relatively good news. They'll still be without Gonzalez for his next few turns in the rotation, but the test only confirmed the initial diagnosis of inflammation in the shoulder.
"No structural damage," Williams told reporters today after the Nationals took two of three from the New York Mets with a 6-3 win in Nationals Park. "He's got some inflammation. So he'll be shut down for 4-5 days, no throwing, no nothing and then we'll start him back on a program to get him back throwing. Get him a bullpen when we can, but no structural damage. Good news on him, just some inflammation."
While the Nationals didn't think anything was wrong, they took the necessary steps to satisfy any lingering doubts.
"You look at it and say, 'Well, it's bothering him and we've got to send him for a test,'" Williams explained. "And the test came back great. So we'll build him back up and love to have him back when he's ready."
Gonzalez's absence he said, is an opportunity for someone else to step up and help the Nationals. He wasn't, however, willing to say who would start in Gonzalez's place the next time his turn in the rotation came up.
"We're going to talk about that this afternoon," Williams told a reporter who asked if it would be right-hander Blake Treinen, who has already been up twice this season, once to help out in the bullpen and once for a spot start.
"We haven't made that decision yet. Both he and Taylor Jordan have pitched very well, so we'll make that decision."
The good news was that the results of the MRI didn't prove Williams, Rizzo or the Nats' coaches wrong.
"We talked about it yesterday," he said. "You look for tell-tale signs, right? You look for velocity drop. You look for spin-rate drop, it's amazing what they measure. Actually, yesterday, his curve ball spin rate was the best it's been all season. That's a sign of strength, because you've got to finish that pitch. But it's in there. There's some inflammation in there, so we'll do our best to get it out of there and get him built back to where he can step back out there for us and win for us."
For the next two weeks, the Nationals will have to win without Gonzalez, just as they've had to when Wilson Ramos, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and others have dealt with injuries early this season.
"You can't change anything," Williams said. "It's an opportunity for guys to step to the plate, no pun intended, and get it done, and that's how we feel about it."