“Not only did we win, we got some really, really good news,” Martinez said of Harris after beating the New York Mets 7-3. “So we’re happy about it.”
Harris’ updated diagnosis did not come without confusion. On March 13, Harris appeared in a “B-game” and felt numbness in the fingers on his right hand. He went to a doctor in West Palm Beach, Florida and learned that he had a blood clot in his right arm. Martinez called it a “small” blood clot.
Then Harris received a second opinion from Robert Thompson of Washington University in St. Louis. Afterward, Martinez told reporters on Friday afternoon that Harris had gone through a clot removal procedure and promised more information once he spoke to the Nationals medical staff. Then, on Friday night, Martinez gave another update saying there really wasn’t a clot after all and Harris should be back sooner than expected.
Before leaving camp for St. Louis, Harris did all he could but throw. He stayed in the weight room and worked his legs. He wanted to shorten his way back to the hill later. It’s only been two weeks since Harris last played a game. It’s a short distance that could have taken a lot longer.
“He’s huge for our team and what he’s doing, especially at the back end of that bullpen,” said Martinez. “It was great news. When they told me that, I was pumped up. “
Upon arriving in DC, Harris must go through admission screening and quarantine until he receives a negative coronavirus test result. That will set him back for at least a few more days. It is likely that he will start the season at the Nationals’ alternate location in Fredericksburg, Virginia and build up his arm strength.
The team has staggered between eight and nine reliefs on its opening list. Without Harris, whose $ 8 million salary is the second highest in the bullpen, Martinez may have to reach for creative solutions. The starters Erick Fedde and Austin Voth were relieved this week. Lefty Luis Avilán and Righty Javy Guerra, two non-roster veterans, looked sharp in their last few games. Righty Kyle McGowin and Lefty Sam Clay, both on the 40-man roster, are also in the mix.
The bullpen locks appear to be Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Wander Suero, Kyle Finnegan, and Tanner Rainey who still find his speed and command after a lack of time with muscle strain near his collarbone. That leaves three or four places – depending on the roster construction – before Harris makes it back.