Braves closer Jason Grilli had back spasms and was unavailable to pitch in the weekend series against the Nationals, including a pair of tough losses that saw the Braves overcome early deficits to tie on Saturday and take the lead Sunday.
Rookie reliever Cody Martin took the loss in both games, giving up a walkoff homer to Bryce Harper in Saturday’s 8-6 defeat and giving up two runs in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 5-4 loss that completed a three-game Nationals sweep.
The Braves wouldn’t specify his injury publicly until after Sunday’s series finale, when manager Fredi Gonzalez was asked if usual eighth-inning reliever Jim Johnson had been held back in case there was a save situation in the ninth.
“Yeah, Jason is battling some back spasms the last couple of days, so he wasn’t available again,” Gonzalez said. “He is getting better. He’s getting closer. We’ll see how quickly we get him on the field.”
Grilli said after Sunday’s game, “I’m here and I’m trying to get myself as ready as possible.” Asked if he made progress during treatment sessions over the weekend, he said, “Absolutely.”
The Braves were to fly to Cincinnati after Sunday’s game to start a three-game series Monday against the Reds.
Grillil, who has nine saves in 10 opportunities, last pitched Wednesday in the homestand finale, and it wasn’t known that he was injured until Saturday, when he was conspicuously absent from the bullpen in the closing innings.
Gonzalez was asked after Saturday’s loss about Grilli’s absence, and the manager said only that the veteran right-hander had been unavailable to pitch and that they hoped it was only a minor issue.
Before Sunday’s game, Gonzalez did say that it wasn’t an arm injury, but wouldn’t elaborate.
“Did he tell you what it was?” Gonzalez said to a reporter Sunday morning, when asked about Grilli’s situation.
Told that Grilli had not been specific about the injury or the severity, Gonzalez said, “We’ll see if he can throw. But it’s not his arm.”
Technically, teams are not permitted to disclose the specifics of injuries unless a player consents to such disclosure. But in almost every situation, the player does consent and teams do provide more specific information. Most figure it’s better to have people know rather than speculate.
In some circumstances, a player or a team might prefer an opponent not know the nature of an injury or whether the player will be available that day, for competitive reasons. They might not want to opponent to know whether a reliever was available, or if a pitcher or player has a leg injury or some other issue that might prevent, say, fielding a bunt.
In the case of Grilli, however, it’s more a case of the pitcher just preferred not for any focus to be on his injury.
He was asked Sunday about the back spasms and when the situation first cropped up.
“It’s tough to say.” Grilli replied. “It’s tough to pinpoint when these things really happen. We all have nicks, bruises and scratches. If I complained about everything that we feel – soreness, this and that – you guys would have have a full report. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, we’re here to talk about winning ballgames.”
Grilli has a 4.50 ERA in 10 games, with 16 strikeouts and four walks in 10 innings. He last pitched Wednesday, when he gave up two hits and one run in the ninth inning of a 7-5 win against the Phillies.
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC