A deeper examination of Wade Davis’ ailing right arm offered both positive news and mild concern on Sunday.
Davis was diagnosed with a Grade 1 flexor strain in his right forearm, an injury that is often a precursor to more serious elbow trouble, and placed on the 15-day disabled list. Yet the Royals stressed that an MRI on Sunday morning in Kansas City revealed that Davis’ elbow was structurally sound.
“The elbow looked fine,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Davis’ trip to the disabled list is retroactive to July 28. The Royals are hopeful Davis, the Royals’ shutdown closer, could return by Aug. 12, his earliest date for reinstatement. Yost said his concern about Davis’ health was mild, even after the pitcher headed home to Kansas City to undergo an MRI.
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“He was still throwing 95, 96 miles per hour,” Yost said. “He just had some discomfort in there. I figured that’s probably what (the MRI) would show.”
An injury to the flexor muscle, which protects the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow, can still be cause for concern. A year ago, Royals left-hander Jason Vargas was diagnosed with a flexor strain in early May and headed to the disabled list. He battled the injury for close to two months before an MRI revealed significant damage to his ulnar collateral ligament.
Davis has already spent 15 days on the disabled list after suffering a forearm strain in late June. He returned to the mound on July 16 but reported symptoms after a throwing session earlier last week. He flew back to Kansas City on Saturday night.
In his first season as the Royals’ full-time closer, Wade Davis has posted a 1.60 ERA with 21 saves. But he hasn’t matched the all-out dominance of his 2014 and 2015 seasons. His strikeouts are down while his walks have increased considerably. The strain, Yost said, has mostly affected Davis’ command on his secondary pitches.
For now, Davis has yet to display a significant decrease in velocity, which offers hope that he can return soon.
“We’re not planning on it being any longer (than 15 days),” Yost said. “But we’ll see.”
In a corresponding roster move, the Royals called up left-hander Matt Strahm from Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Strahm, a 21st-round pick in 2012, has posted a 3.43 ERA in 22 games for the Naturals in the Texas League. He spent most of the season as a starter before transitioning to the bullpen in recent weeks. Club officials described the move as a way to conserve his innings count while also positioning him for a late-season call-up.
“I’ve been relieving most of my professional career,” Strahm said on Sunday. “This year was my first year as a starter. I’m comfortable in both roles.”
Strahm, 24, missed all of the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, posting a 2.59 ERA at two minor-league levels before drawing praise during big-league camp this spring.
“He’s one of the guys I was impressed with this spring,” Yost said. “So I’m anxious to see him here now.”