VIERA, Fla. — Ryan Mattheus will undergo an MRI on his upper chest later today, a test the Nationals reliever hopes reveals only a minor injury that would allow him to resume throwing in a matter of days.
Mattheus hasn't pitched since Tuesday, when he first felt a pull in his upper right chest while jogging following his bullpen session. It continues to hamper him nearly a week later.
"It's weird. It's some sort of rib injury," the right-hander said. "It really doesn't bother me with everyday activities, but when I cough or sneeze, then I want to drop to my knees. It's really painful."
Team doctors held Mattheus out of workouts for several days, hoping rest alone might resolve the issue, but he still feels the discomfort. X-rays were negative, but he'll undergo an MRI later today to determine the extent of the injury.
Mattheus said doctors are fairly confident the issue is muscular, perhaps a slight straight of an intercostal muscle.
"It could be really minor," he said. "Even if it's an intercostal, that's 3-to-4 weeks and then you ramp back up. So it's nothing that's going to cost me the season or a long period of time. It's just kind of bad timing right now."
Serious injury or not, Mattheus was hoping for a more positive start to an important camp for him. The 30-year-old reliever, a key member of the Nationals' 2012 bullpen, is trying to bounce back from a dreadful season in which he posted a 6.37 ERA, broke his right hand punching a locker in frustration after a poor outing and was demoted to Class AAA Syracuse for a stretch.
Mattheus is just one of several relievers competing for the one or two available spots in the Nationals' Opening Day bullpen.
"I'm trying to get my name in the competition, so for that sake of it, it kind of stinks," he said. "Bad timing. But I've got to take my time. I can't really try to pitch through something right now. That won't do me any good, either. We'll find out more. Hopefully I'll have a better answer tonight."