Sam Freeman had barely finished his delivery when he signaled to the Washington Nationals’ dugout.
Manager Davey Martinez and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard wasted no time in getting to the mound to examine the 33-year-old left-hander.
“He’s got a flexor strain,” Martinez said afterward. “He’s going to get an MRI Friday morning when we get back to Washington.”
“He said he felt a pop in his elbow, so when he says that then he’s coming out of the game,” Martinez explained.
The 33-year-old Freeman had Tommy John surgery in 2010, so there is a level of concern.
“It’s unfortunate,” Martinez said. “Super guy. Works his tail off, hopefully it’s just a strain, but we’ll know more on Friday.”
Freeman was on in relief of Aníbal Sánchez, who lasted just 2 2⁄3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits.
They would need a strong effort from the bullpen if they had any chance of overcoming a 5-3 deficit.
Freeman gave them just that, for as long as he was in the game. After giving up his seventh walk of the season to Luis Guillorme, Freeman got down to business, inducing a sharp grounder from Brandon Nimmo to Starlin Castro, who tossed to Trea Turner for a force.
After a seven-pitch bottom of the third, Freeman went back out for the fourth and fell behind JD Davis before enticing a groundout to Asdrubal Cabrera.
But after visiting Freeman following his first pitch to Jeff McNeil, Lessard and Martinez did not like what they saw, and Freeman was gone from a Nationals’ bullpen where he’s quickly moved into a key role.
Freeman’s official stat line of no hits and no runs in two-thirds of an inning continues his 0.00 ERA on the season. In five innings, he’s allowed just two hits and walked seven, but none of his baserunners has scored, and he’s not allowed an inherited runner to score all year, either. He’s given the Nats something they’ve not had for a while, a durable middle-inning lefty.
Freeman is in his ninth big league season, with an 8-7 lifetime record and a 3.55 ERA and 232 strikeouts and 235 walks in 233 career innings.
Major off-season acquisition Will Harris is due to come of the injured list on Thursday, so if Freeman is going to miss any time, Harris could take his spot on the roster.
If Freeman is sidelined, that would again leave the struggling Sean Doolittle as the only lefty in the Nats’ bullpen.
Doolittle has struggled with his velocity this season and has an ERA of 15.00 in three innings over five appearances.
Doolittle saw some low-leverage action in Tuesday’s 16-4 romp over the Mets. Closing out the game in a non-save situation, he allowed a solo homer to Nimmo, but retired the next three batters on line drives, all with fairly good contact.