After forearm stiffness, Royals starter Nathan Karns could face trip to disabled list

Nathan Karns
Nathan Karns

An examination of Nathan Karns’ ailing right forearm revealed no muscle strains or serious damage, yet the starting pitcher could still face a trip to the 10-day disabled list.

Karns underwent tests on his arm on Saturday after experiencing lingering stiffness on the top of his arm during a start at Target Field on Friday. He left after throwing 72 pitches in five innings.

The tests on Saturday revealed some tightness and fluid near the elbow, Royals manager Ned Yost said. Karns was scheduled to see a doctor again on Sunday.

“We’ll see what everyone feels comfortable with and go from there,” Karns told The Star. “But I’m not alarmed by it. I don’t think it’s a season-ending injury or something that’s going to be an extended period of time. If I do go on the DL, I think it’ll be short term and then right back out there.”

The advent of the 10-day disabled list in the most recent collective-bargaining agreement could play a factor in the decision. Karns’ trip to the disabled list could be retroactive to Saturday. He would be eligible to return on May 30 and miss just one start. Karns called missing one start his “worst-case scenario.”

“It’s just a little bump in the road, something that’s going to take a little time for me to get over,” Karns said. “But by no means am I worried about it lingering or affecting me later on in the season.”

The Royals have their starting rotation set until Thursday. After concluding a series against the Twins on Sunday, the club will travel to New York for a four-game series. Left-handers Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy will start the first two games of the series on regular rest. Jason Hammel, who was originally slated to start on Sunday, was pushed back to Wednesday. That leaves an opening in the rotation on Thursday afternoon against the Yankees.

For Karns, the location of the tightness offers some positive news. Forearm tightness in the bottom of the arm, or the flexor muscle, is often viewed as a precursor to problems with the ulnar collateral ligament and possible Tommy John surgery. But a forearm strain on top of the arm is not as ominous.

“He’s got stiffness up here and some fluid back here,” Yost said, pointing toward the elbow. “Which is keeping him from extending, which is probably why this is getting tight.”

Acquired in the offseason in a trade that sent outfielder Jarrod Dyson to Seattle, Karns, 29, is 2-2 with a 4.17 ERA. His numbers, however, are slightly inflated by a poor relief outing during the first week of the season. In eight starts, Karns has posted a 3.43 ERA while striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings.