After returning to Washington on Tuesday with hopes of being activated off the disabled list, Nationals reliever Casey Janssen will need just a little more time in the minor leagues before the team brings him up to make his 2015 debut.
The veteran right-hander says he feels good physically after rehabbing from right shoulder tendinitis, but the Nats want him to pitch two more times to sharper a few things before calling him up for the first time this season.
"I feel like I'm pretty ready. No health concerns," he said. "They said they would like me to go out a couple more times. They said they would like my curveball to get a little tighter. They said the reports they got said I'm getting there, but whoever said the reports said he's not there yet."
Matt Williams explained the team's thinking before Tuesday's game against the Nationals:
“For me it’s a normal spring training progression. Generally our back of the bullpen guys, eighth inning guys, closers, get at least seven appearances. More like nine during the course of spring training. The fact that Casey got shut down in spring training, he’s got to progress back to that point. So that’s why we decided to give him a couple more. So he’ll go to Harrisburg tomorrow. Pitch there. And pitch again on Friday, then we’ll get together again.”
Janssen, 33, has already made five rehab appearances in recent weeks. He pitched three times for Double-A Harrisburg and twice for Single-A Potomac. He will now return to Harrisburg to continue his road back.
"[I'm] pretty anxious. It took longer than I expected. Obviously I didn't expect to be hurt, period. So it adds to the frustration of not being with the team and helping, but should come quick. Hopefully, when I do get activated I can keep the momentum that they have built going and fit in," he said.
The Nationals want to see Janssen's repertoire round into form, as the right-hander's velocity has not quite returned to where it was before the injury. Janssen usually sites in the high 80s and low 90s on his fastball and is still a few ticks away from normal.
"I think it was more just my arm speed. My arm speed's there. Velocity is, I think, I've never been a power pitcher. I think the big leagues will help [give me] the extra mile per hour. Whatever that they're worried about if they are worried, [I'll] just finish it up," he said.
Janssen signed a free agent deal with the Nationals on Feb. 2 after spending his first eight MLB seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. He has a 3.52 ERA in 389 total major league games.