WASHINGTON -- Justin Miller didn’t look right.
Not just Friday night, when his velocity was down and ball was flat leading to a game-losing home run, but even prior.
He allowed a home run in Philadelphia in a one-run loss Monday and two home runs in New York in a one-run loss April 6.
Miller allowed four home runs in a span of 10 batters once Colin Moran’s three-run homer landed in the seats Friday. This, even in the Nationals bullpen, was epic failure. Turns out, Miller began dealing with lower back pain in New York. He said it feels like someone is punching him in the kidney each time he releases a pitch.
The problem is prevalent enough to put him on the 10-day injured list.
“My arm feels good, that's the most frustrating part about it,” Miller said. “Standing here I don’t really feel it, it's only when I pitch and my arm feels good but as you can see the results, there's something there, and what it is is a lower back strain.”
So, who is en route to replace him?
Washington has expansive options because there is no clear answer and the outcomes could hardly be worse for the league’s worst bullpen.
Austen Williams -- despite a 15.43 ERA in Triple-A Fresno -- seems the top choice. Williams dominated in the spring, intriguing the major-league coaching staff.
Austin Adams, also at Fresno, has been more effective in the extremely small sample size this season: four innings pitched, nine strikeouts, 0.00 ERA.
Even a starter could be an option, especially after the Nationals used five relievers despite Patrick Corbin pitching seven innings Friday.
Miller was viewed as one of the few bullpen choices who could supply multiple innings.
Austin Voth and Kyle McGowin are both far enough from their last starts to be available Saturday.
Adams, Williams, McGowin and Voth are all on the 40-man roster, too.
Another consideration is time.
Washington plays at 4:05 p.m. Saturday. Fresno played in Las Vegas on Friday. Harrisburg is just up the road for a weekend series against Bowie.
Erick Fedde threw 79 pitches April 11 for the Senators. Prospect Wil Crowe threw 67 pitches April 10. He, however, is not on the 40-man roster.
The last person to touch on is Aaron Barrett. He continues to move forward from devastating arm injuries. First, Tommy John surgery. Then, right at the end of recovery from the UCL reconstruction, a fractured elbow. He’s been effective for Harrisburg: four innings, four strikeouts, all zeros otherwise.
But, Barrett is not on the 40-man roster and putting him in a position for high use against major-league hitters is probably not the spot Washington wants him in now. Someone new will be in the clubhouse Saturday.
Who it is -- and if they are the only one in the coming days -- remains to be seen.
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