The Nationals will be without their ninth-inning stopper for the foreseeable future. The team placed closer Jonathan Papelbon on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.
Nats place Jonathan Papelbon on the DL with an intercostal strain. Matt Belisle brought back from rehab to take his roster spot.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) June 14, 2016
Setup man Shawn Kelley was asked to get a five-out save Monday night, which was unusual, even after Papelbon worked an inning Sunday. After the game, manager Dusty Baker said Papelbon was dealing with "soreness."
Intercostal strains can be very tricky. A minor strain could sideline Papelbon only the minimum 15 days. A more severe strain could sideline him weeks or even months. Intercostal injuries are very easy to re-aggravate, so the healing process takes time.
With Papelbon out, the Nationals figure to use Kelley as their primary ninth-inning option. Righty Blake Treinen and lefty Felipe Rivero could also be asked to match up in the late innings. Oliver Perez would be another option for matchup work.
Washington was said to be looking for bullpen help even before the Papelbon injury. Baker has made it no secret that he would like to be reunited with Aroldis Chapman, and the Yankees could very well make their closer available if they continue to fall out of the race.
Now that the draft is over, teams will shift their focus to the trade deadline. Teams far out of the race like the Twins, Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Padres could look to get a jump on the market and make their players available sooner rather than later.
Papelbon, 35, has saved 16 games in 18 opportunities this year. He has a 3.28 ERA (129 ERA+) with 19 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. His 6.9 K/9 is a career low by far.