Hunter Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016, and the 27-year-old righty dealt with oblique and lat strains in 2021, so the Washington Nationals, who selected him off waivers this spring, were trying to handle the hard-throwing reliever carefully, even before injury concerns came up this week and he landed on the 10-Day IL.
Harvey felt something in his right arm earlier this week, and he spoke up to let his new club know he didn’t feel right, explaining to reporters he’d tried to pitch through a similar issue in the past and had caused more damage.
“I talked to him last night after the game for a little while,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez said, “and I think over the past years he was reluctant to ever say anything about his injuries, and it might have cost him a few months here and there, but I’m glad he was smart enough to say he felt something, and I told him, ‘You know what that’s called? Maturity.’ You know? If you’re hurt, you’re hurt, and we have people here who could help you get better sooner than later, so he was glad that he said something and he’s very hopeful that it’s nothing major and that he can come back and help us as soon as possible, which would be great.”
Players being reluctant to admit there is something wrong and trying to work through it is nothing new, of course, but Martinez said he knew what was behind the motivation to push through issues.
“Absolutely,” he explained. “These guys are built to want to play and compete, and when they get an opportunity to play — and especially a lot of it, on a new team too, and wanting to help us and want to do well for us, and they feel something, sometimes they don’t want to say, ‘Hey, look.’ But as I’ve said all along, even in Spring Training, if there’s something bothering you, let us know right away, because it could be a two or three day thing, a 10-day thing, and if you don’t speak up, it could be a month, a two-month long thing, so let us know right away. We’re here to help you. I know you want to help us, but we’re also here to help you get through things.’ But I’m glad he spoke up though, because with his past history, if he would have tried to pitch with that, and something really bad happened, and I found out that he said that he felt it before, for me, that’s upsetting, so I don’t want these guys to ever feel like they can’t speak up.”
Once they do acknowledge an issue, and if it does land them on the IL, how does the Nationals’ manager want players to spend their time rehabbing?
In addition to doing their work, he said he really wants them to focus on the games, and visualize how they would handle hitters or situations they could find themselves in once they return.
“I want them to watch the game, I want them to see what other pitchers are doing to attack hitters,” he explained, “because eventually he’s going to have to pitch again and face the same batters, so oftentimes I tell them to put yourself in a situation that you think that you’re going to be in and watch those group of hitters, and learn from them. Learn what we’re trying to do to them. Sit in the meetings, a lot of times I want them to just sit in the meetings when we have meetings so they can listen so that when they come back they’re not that far removed.”
Remaining engaged, Martinez said is a good way to stay focused, and will, he hopes, ease the transition when they are ready to return.
“I don’t want them just sitting around,” he said. “These guys come here early and do their rehab, and then after that, they can join the meetings, they can talk, you know, and if they got something to say to somebody that’s actually participating that day, about what they think they see, speak up. It’s good for them to interact with players even though they’re not participating, but it keeps them engaged, and I like that.”