Braves’ Charlie Morton exits start vs. Nationals with right index finger sprain

WASHINGTON – During the first inning of Friday’s game, catcher Sean Murphy noticed Charlie Morton might have experienced some discomfort, so he asked the Braves’ starter, “What’s going on?”

“I think I hurt my finger,” Morton told Murphy.

The Braves removed Morton after one inning because of a right index finger sprain. Morton’s X-rays, done Friday night, were negative. He’ll have an MRI on Saturday.

Is Morton concerned about his availability for the postseason?

“I mean, I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t know. There were times when I felt like something was really wrong with me, and nothing was wrong with me. And there were times where I felt like, ‘Hey, I’m OK,’ and it turned out to be something more severe. The optimistic side of me says, ‘Yeah, I’ll be fine. In 10 days, I’ll be good.’ But I just don’t know – because it’s a finger.”

Had he felt a pop in his shoulder or pain in his elbow, he might have more clarity about the seriousness.

But this was a finger.

“It’s literally, like, such a small piece of my body, and it could have a large impact on how I perform and if I can go, at least to a degree that I’m effective,” Morton said. “…I’m hopeful that in four or five days, I’ll feel good.”

Morton on Friday threw 24 pitches in a scoreless first inning. He walked two batters and struck out one. Michael Tonkin took over in the second. Eventually, the Braves beat the Nationals, 9-6.

The Braves already clinched their division. They have home-field advantage for the NLDS. If they don’t collapse over the next week, they’ll have home-field advantage throughout the entire postseason.

The point: They can afford to be cautious with guys.

But this wasn’t exactly that.

“He didn’t feel like he could go on,” manager Brian Snitker said.

The Braves cannot place Morton on the injured list if they want him to be on their NLDS roster. If they put him on the 15-day injured list on Saturday, for example, his 15th and final day would be Oct. 7 – which is Game 1 of the NLDS. For comparison, Max Fried, who landed on the injured list on Friday, will be eligible for the postseason roster because his final day is Oct. 6.

Now, keep this in mind: This all changes if the Braves learn that Morton’s injury is severe. Perhaps he wouldn’t even be ready for the NLDS.

At this point, we don’t know.

“I don’t feel like I’ve lost that much of my finger,” Morton said. “I don’t feel like I’m gonna leave here and not be able to open a door, or brush my teeth, or drive or something like that. Literally, one of the few things that it really could affect would be throwing a baseball.”

And that’s why all of this is difficult to gauge. We should know more soon.

Almost a decade ago, Morton, who threw a splitter at the time, suffered an injury in his middle finger. He said he popped something in his joint and it swelled up. It bothered him for the rest of the year, but he said he could still pitch differently.

The injury he suffered Friday is a different finger and different location.

Usually, Morton said, the question is: Can a pitcher pitch or not?

He said this is different.

“This would be more of a question about effectiveness than if I can pitch,” he said. “I can go out and pitch. The next start I make is probably going to be in the postseason, if I had to guess. It’s not some game in late May or early August. It’s going to be the biggest game of the season. That’s where the frustration comes in and the question mark comes in. ‘Can you go?’ is not good enough.”