Given the injuries they've already sustained and the lack of production they've been getting from the rest of their lineup, the Nationals can ill-afford to lose Adam LaRoche for any length of time.
But it appears they'll be without their cleanup hitter and starting first baseman for at least several days after he suffered an injury to his right oblique muscle while diving for a ball during Wednesday night's game.
LaRoche finished out that game but reported to Nationals Park today feeling tightness on his right side. He attempted to take a couple of swings off a tee, but quickly shut himself down, not wanting the injury to become any more severe.
"I know these things can linger," he said. "I hope we caught it early enough where we can knock it out shortly and get back out there, because obviously the timing couldn't be any worse."
The Nationals are currently playing without either third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right shoulder inflammation) or left fielder Michael Morse (right lat muscle strain). Zimmerman is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday but may not be ready until Tuesday. Morse will be shut down for at least three more weeks before resuming baseball activities.
The Nationals aren't putting any official timetable on LaRoche's return, but Davey Johnson said he "might be down 2-3 days." The manager added this oblique injury is "not in the DeRosa category," referring to veteran Mark DeRosa, who just went on the DL with an oblique strain.
LaRoche, who leads the club with four homers and 17 RBI, said he first felt something in his right side after diving for a groundball to his right early during Wednesday's game but initially didn't think much of it.
"I thought at the time I just landed on my ribs, or landed on something," he said. "When I came back to swing the bat, I knew it was something else."
The injury occurred before LaRoche attempted to steal second base in the bottom of the sixth, though he said that play didn't cause any further damage. The 32-year-old has only five stolen bases (in 16 attempts) in his career.
"Just doing what I'm told," he said of the surprise call. "I was ordered to go, which is a compliment. But I think I was thrown out by about 20 feet. They probably won't do that again."