Updated at 6:41 p.m.
The Nationals made their long-anticipated move to activate Casey Janssen off the disabled list Friday, bolstering their bullpen with an experienced reliever but forcing them to place rookie Sammy Solis on the DL with his own shoulder ailment.
Janssen, who pitched six games during a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg, is active and available out of the bullpen for Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies. The 33-year-old was signed to a guaranteed $3.5 million over the winter to serve as the club’s new setup man after Tyler Clippard’s trade to Oakland, but manager Matt Williams may want to ease him into that role.
“It depends on what the game provides,” Williams said. “We just don’t know. For me to sit here today and say we’re going to pitch him in this position, it wouldn’t make any sense. We’ll see what it provides for us on any given day. But he certainly has experience. He’s been there and done that. No moment would be too big for him, even coming off the DL. He’s been there before.”
Janssen missed the season’s first seven weeks with tendinitis in his right shoulder, frustrated to watch as the Nationals’ inexperienced bullpen struggled early on before righting itself over the last month.
“Yeah, it was tough,” the 33-year-old former Blue Jays closer said. “I said to some people that those games that we lost early on that were late, I took it hard on myself because I should’ve been the guy in that situation, and I should’ve been the one getting that loss or pitching well enough where we didn’t have to have that struggle. But guys pitched great. I think they’re all better for it now, pitching in tight games, and hopefully we’ve got a good thing going now.”
Janssen’s debut comes at the expense of Solis, who heads to the 15-day DL with inflammation in his left shoulder. The 26-year-old made his major-league debut April 30 against Mets and had pitched well in five appearances.
That workload, though, might have been a bit too much for Solis, a former starter who had only switched to a relief role this season. Solis wasn’t available to pitch earlier this week in the Nationals’ series against the Yankees.
“He’s in a new role, which is different than what he’s used to,” Williams said. “Just more volume, more often, may result in some soreness. We just want to make sure we calm it down as much as possible. And the fact Casey’s ready, it makes it a natural move for us.”