Casey Janssen emerged from his first rehab appearance with Class A Potomac feeling more encouraged about his pending return from a shoulder injury than he expected.
“Everything was positive,” the veteran reliever said. “It was definitely a nice step, probably a bigger step than I initially thought it was going to be.”
Out since late-March with tendinitis in his right shoulder, Janssen made his minor-league rehab debut Thursday night, starting for Potomac and retiring the side on nine pitches. He didn’t know what his velocity readings were but said it felt like he was throwing harder than he did while at extended spring training in Viera, Fla.
More important, in Janssen’s mind, was his command during the 1-inning appearance.
“There’s no magic number velocity-wise to get to, because I’ve always needed to hit my spots anyway,” he said. “I think if what I feel like, if my arm can hang like it has been, the sharpness and the command, that stuff’s going to be there. If it’s not right out of the gates, it’s going to be there. It won’t take long. And once I challenge my arm and my body and it can hang with it, then I think I can get back real quick.”
Next up for Janssen will be another rehab appearance Sunday. If all goes well, he would likely return to the mound Tuesday, then possibly make back-to-back appearances before coming off the disabled list and making his Nationals debut.
Janssen, 33, signed a contract with the Nationals over the winter that guarantees him $3.5 million, expected to serve as the club’s top setup man after Tyler Clippard was traded to Oakland.
Meanwhile, veteran outfielder Reed Johnson was back in the Nationals’ clubhouse Friday for the first time since surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot and expressed optimism he can return to play this season.
“I guess my goal when I signed here was: Help this team out not only during the regular season, but deep into the postseason,” Johnson said. “I still feel like the timing of this injury gives me that shot to be able to accomplish part of that goal, which is to help this team deep into the postseason, deep into the playoffs. But we’ll see how I’m coming along with my rehab and all that if I’m able to do that. That’s where my focuses are now to keep me sane.”
Johnson hurt himself running out a double during the Nationals’ record-breaking, 13-12 comeback victory over the Braves on April 28, feeling a pop in his left foot. Turns out the peroneal tendon (which connects the foot to one of the calf muscles) snapped, causing the muscle to become detached and curl up inside his lower leg.
“It was basically like rolling up into my leg,” he said. “That’s what happens with Achilles’ tendons and all that, kind of roll up your calf or whatever. It just feels like a muscle cramp. It’s uncomfortable, but not in agony, just kind of confused.”
Johnson is scheduled to have his cast removed in the next few days, though he’ll still need to keep his foot in a walking boot. He said he should be able to resume running in 8-to-10 weeks, then begin baseball activities in 10-to-12 weeks. That could put the 38-year-old outfielder on track to return sometime in August or September.