Signed to a 3-year/$24M free agent deal this winter, veteran reliever Will Harris was a key addition to the Washington Nationals’ relief corps, but the club is still waiting for the 35-year-old right-hander to take the mound in competitive action after he suffered an injury early in Spring Training.
“I had a hernia surgery probably 18 months ago,” Harris told reporters in West Palm Beach, FL on Wednesday afternoon. “I pitched all of last year and was fine, but I think it was just something of a pattern I had started to throw and was kind of causing some damage to myself, a few deficiencies, and so got them ironed out and I don’t feel it now, so I’m a lot stronger now in those areas than I was before.”
What, exactly, does he mean by “those areas”?
“It was just like a lower [abdominal] strain, pull, tear, whatever, something like that, and it was just when you go to throw, you just kind of feel that pulling in your abs,” Harris said, “and the harder you try to throw the worse it gets, that’s usually a telltale sign that you’ve got to quit throwing. That’s kind of what I was dealing with, took a little bit of time off and then rehabbed my butt off, working on a four-pack, and then we’ll hopefully get it to a six here pretty soon.”
Harris finished the 2019 regular season with a 1.50 ERA, a 3.15 FIP, 14 walks (2.10 BB/9), 62 strikeouts (9.30 K/9), and a .196/.246/.294 line against in 60 innings pitched, and then he tossed nine scoreless innings to start the postseason, before giving up runs on homers in each of his final two appearances in the World Series, with Howie Kendrick taking him to right field in Game 7 of the Fall Classic for what ended up being the game-winning hit.
Important as he is to the Nationals’ bullpen this season, the club and their new reliever are taking their time and making sure to progress slowly as they work to get his mechanics on track and get the abdominal injury cleared up.
“That’s why you kind of go slow,” Harris explained, “is to make sure that you slowly work into it, that you don’t revert back to old bad habits, but so far so good, and take a day tomorrow, and then do it again on Friday, and I plan on not having any hiccups.”
If all goes as planned, the eight-year veteran, who’s averaged 59+ IP over the last five years, will be ready for the season opener later this month.
“As of right now, I’ll be there,” Harris said today, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato, after throwing to a crouched catcher off a mound. “I’ll have cleats on. I’ll be ready.”