Major-league clubs are allowed to add an extra, 26th man for doubleheaders, and the Nationals couldn't have asked for better timing in that regard today, with Ryan Mattheus ready to return from a broken right hand.
Mattheus, on the 15-day disabled list since he broke that hand punching his locker May 19 in San Diego, was officially activated before the first game of today's day-night doubleheader against the Mets. He's available to pitch in both games, and manager Davey Johnson plans to use him if the situation arises.
"It was a long time off," Mattheus said. "It's tough to sit back and watch the games from that perspective. It's just great to know that I can go out there and contribute today. So yeah, it's an amazing feeling being back."
The right-hander was understandably embarrassed by the nature of his injury, and he had to spend the last two months watching the Nationals struggle as penance for his mistake.
"The nature of my injury — knowing that it was self-inflicted — and then seeing the struggles that this team's going through, it's tough to deal with. But hopefully I'll be back and contribute and we can turn this thing around."
Mattheus made six rehab appearances with four different Nationals affiliates: the rookie Gulf Coast League club, low-Class A Hagerstown, Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse. He pitched two innings on Tuesday for Syracuse, said he has experienced no setbacks and treated the last month as something of a second spring training to get his arm back in shape.
How long will Mattheus remain in the big-league bullpen? That answer has not yet been revealed. The Nationals could simply send him back to Syracuse after tonight's game, when they're required to reduce the roster to 25. They could then recall him in the near future, perhaps if starter Taylor Jordan is sent down in advance of his pending shutdown.
"I've sat out for two months, a little over two months," Mattheus said. "So if it's one day, I'll be happy. Obviously I want to be here, but those decisions are 100 percent out of my hands. I'll be here as long as they want me to. I'm ready to contribute and I'm hungry, so I'm ready to get back out there."
The Nationals also could keep Mattheus here and remove another pitcher from the roster, potentially Drew Storen. The struggling right-hander, though, is currently dealing with the same flu-like symptoms that plagued first baseman Adam LaRoche last weekend and likely is unavailable to pitch in either game of today's doubleheader.