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Washington Nationals don’t “need” Ryan Madson back... but they need him back...

Ryan Madson is struggling with a sprain of his right index finger, but Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said they expect to have the right-hander back soon-ish...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Dusty Baker talked last week about the right index finger sprain Ryan Madson has been dealing with that landed the right-handed reliever on the 10-Day Disabled List this past Thursday night, retroactive to August 14th.

“He has like a soreness in his finger, in his index finger, in his throwing hand,” Baker explained, “so we thought it would be best since we can use the DL for three days.”

“Hopefully he’ll be better in a week,” the Nats’ skipper added.

Before he landed on the DL, Madson had been lights out since he was acquired along with Sean Doolittle from the Oakland A’s in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline last month, throwing a total of nine scoreless innings in which he’d walked one, struck out 13, and posted a stingy .161/.212/.290 line against.

Madson tried to throw this past Friday, for the first time since he shut it down while warming up for a game last Monday, but the session didn’t last too long because he felt pain immediately, so the next step, he explained, was unclear.

“On Monday, playing at 20 percent effort, I felt it right away,” Madson said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“So it’ll show its ugly face right away if it’s still there. But it’s just a sprain. Everybody’s sprained something. They said nothing was torn, no damage in there. So that’s good.”

With Madson out, Brandon Kintzler, acquired at the deadline, has filled in as the Nats’ eighth-inning reliever, giving up three hits and one earned run in five innings, holding opposing hitters to a .188/.278/.375 line over that stretch, including last night’s game, in which he worked his way into and out of a bases-loaded jam, setting Sean Doolittle up for the save opportunity in the ninth.

Oliver Perez and Joe Blanton handled the seventh last night, where Kintzler had been working before Madson’s injury.

Baker talked after the Nationals’ 4-3 win about the improvements Blanton has made over the last few weeks.

“Joe is throwing better,” Baker said.

“That’s why we’re putting him in more leverage situations, cause this is what we brought him here for and this is kind of what he’s used to. So it’s good to see his velocity back up, and he’s throwing the ball well.”

Shawn Kelley just returned from the DL, though he hasn’t seen enough action to gauge where he’s at right now after struggling early this season.

Enny Romero has impressed in his rehab assignment, and GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning that the hard-throwing left-hander is, “throwing very well,” and, “... looking like he’s coming back sooner rather than later.”

The Nationals have assembled enough arms to fill in for Madson should his absence go on longer than originally expected, but they would, of course, be better off if he was available.

Rizzo told the Junkies that they expect him to be back relatively soon.

“He’s got -- his index finger on his right hand -- which is obviously extremely important to grip the baseball, especially him because he throws that spiked, like knuckle curve that he has to dig the index finger into the ball,” Rizzo said.

“He hyperextended the end joint and we’re just waiting for — there’s a sheath on the ligament on top of it that wasn’t feeling so good, so he’s getting treatment right now we’re hoping to have him back in the next few days, next week or so, and hopefully he’ll be 100% throwing like he was when he went on the DL.”

Could the Nationals get by without Madson? Sure.

They have options on the roster right now, and some relievers in the minors (Wander Suero, Erick Fedde?) who could help out in September.

But the three-headed monster they put together to solve the Nationals’ bullpen issues is the ideal makeup for the bullpen.

Heading into the second of three with the Astros in Houston, the Nationals’ relievers have put up the second-lowest ERA in the NL over the last 30 days, the lowest FIP (3.08), lowest BAA (.191), and the lowest WHIP (0.99), a major improvement over the numbers the bullpen put up in the first half of the 2017 campaign.

“I think that the bullpen has really stabilized,” Rizzo told the Sports Junkies.

“I think the additions have been welcomed by the entirety of the bullpen, and I think everyone is in a better slot right now in the bullpen and their roles are more defined and I think you’re seeing all the guys, including the new acquisitions, but all the players in the bullpen are thriving because of it.”