Will Harris expressed relief once a number of possibilities for what was causing the swelling in his right hand when he throws were ruled out earlier this season.
Harris was initially diagnosed with a blood clot in his right arm, which was apparently a misdiagnosis.
He talked to reporters following a trip to see a specialist about where things stood as he was working his way back into the bullpen mix in early May.
“I definitely didn’t think that I would be pitching on May 4th getting that diagnosis,” Harris said. “That was something that was kind of looking like maybe a pretty large chunk of the season if not the whole season, so yeah, it was definitely a little bit of highs, and then no blood clot, but then maybe still could — we’re in that serious realm of possibly Thoracic outlet [syndrome], and then finally getting the clearance of that, and then being able to — okay, I’m not going to injure myself any more, I’m not in any serious danger, so I could start baseball activities. And yeah, so that was about a month process of throwing, and throwing bullpens, and throwing sim games at our alternate site, so yeah, that was kind of it.”
“I’m not in the beginning of my career,” the 36-year-old reliever continued, “... let’s say, so getting a thoracic outlet — pretty much diagnosis was not good. And thought, maybe wow, 2021 may be over, and who’s to know how I’m going to come out of that, so moving past that has definitely been a blessing and I’m excited that I’m here like I said on May 4th, ready to pitch in a big league game. Definitely didn’t look like that in March, but you never know.”
Things didn’t go well for Harris once he returned. He struggled on the mound, the swelling in his hand persisted, and he went back on the IL with plans to see a specialist in Dallas, TX.
Davey Martinez said late last week that there was a diagnosis, but he was waiting to talk with Harris before sharing the information.
On Sunday morning he shared the news.
“I spoke to him and he opted to have surgery,” Martinez said. “So he’s going to have surgery on Friday. He has thoracic outlet syndrome and so we talked, he wanted to talk to his family, and talk to us, so he’s going to have the surgery on Friday.”
Before you ask, yes, as noted above, Thoracic outlet syndrome had previously been ruled out by another doctor.
“This was — they actually saw it this time,” Martinez explained. “The first time they didn’t. The first time they were dealing with maybe a blood clot, they looked for thoracic outlet, they didn’t see anything. This time it was definitive what they saw, and they said that that was the cause.
“He had an impingement and he wasn’t getting any circulation when he was pitching, so it was definitely some clarity in what they saw, and like I said, for Will, he felt good about it.
“Now they know what it is. Before they didn’t see anything, and there was no blood clot, there was no impingement, and now there is, so he’s at a good place, even though he wishes he was pitching ... at least he knows what it is and they can go in and fix it.”
The diagnosis after all this time, was a relief for Harris, as Martinez said.
“After talking to him yesterday, he actually is in pretty good spirits because they finally know something,” the manager said. “And they think that this is really going to help him. So, with that being said, he just wants to have the procedure done, and get ready as quick as he possibly can get ready so he can come back and hopefully have no other issues. But it is — dealing with what he was dealing with, it was frustrating, because like I said, he wanted to help us win, and he was going out there, doing the best he can, and just his hand would swell up on him and that was no fun for him after every game, where his hand was just swollen.”
Harris signed a 3-year/$24M with the Nationals before the 2020 campaign, and struggled with a groin issue last year in the 60-game season. Hopefully he’ll be able to return in 2022 and contribute to the bullpen.
He is likely done for 2021 now, though the manager didn’t offer any timetable for a return.
“The timetable, I really don’t know the specifics on, but he’s going to miss probably most of the season if not all of the season,” Martinez said. “But I spoke to him for a while yesterday, and I think it’s the right thing to do at this point, you know. I don’t want him — I mean, he tried to pitch for us and the hand swelling thing was frustrating to him, so I told him, I said, ‘If it was me I’d go ahead and have the surgery, but it’s your decision,’ and he chose to do that.”
Did Harris potentially make things worse by continuing to try to pitch through the issue?
“I really can’t answer that,” Martinez said. “When he got the first diagnosis he felt okay with it and he wanted pitch, and he pitched, he said it wasn’t painful, it was just a weird sensation that every time he came out fo the game, that his hand would swell up like that and the next day it would be gone. So, but like I said, this time when he went to the doctor in Dallas there was clarity on what it was. And like he said, I feel a lot better knowing that it was something, because every day I would be like — he didn’t know what was going on.”