For Jeremy Hellickson, sudden exit with cramp in arm
Shawn Fcasni grabbed Jeremy Hellickson's right arm, the one that had tossed five scoreless innings, and attempted to unbend the pitcher's fingers. Hellickson could not warm up for the sixth inning of an eventual 4-3 Phillies win over Washington. Fcasni, the Phillies' assistant athletic trainer, saw fingers that locked in a bent position.
First, his left arm felt numb. Then it extended to his right arm.
"I felt like I could have gone seven, eight [innings] for sure," Hellickson said. "To put our bullpen in a spot like that isn't what I wanted to do. But I just couldn't throw. It was weird."
Hellickson was diagnosed with a cramp in his right forearm. He is not expected to miss a start.
"He couldn't open his hand," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I don't know if he was dehydrated or whatever. I don't think it's a serious issue."
The veteran righthander cruised through the first five innings, allowing just two Washington runners on base. He retired the first nine in order. He owns a 0.90 ERA after two starts, both of which lasted five innings. His only impediment this time was locked fingers, not the imposing Nationals lineup.
"My fastball command was probably the best it's been in a while," Hellickson said.
The 30-year-old righthander emerged last season as a stabilizing force in the rotation and is the team's highest-paid player at $17.2 million. Hellickson guessed that the cause of the injury, which carried the symptoms of "trigger finger," was dehydration. The Phillies have a relaxed upcoming schedule, with two of the next eight days off. That could allow them to rest Hellickson, if needed.
"It feels good now," Hellickson said after the game. "A little bit after I came in here it was still cramping a little bit but good now."
Andrew Knapp collected his first major-league hit, a key fifth-inning double against Stephen Strasburg. He later scored on an infield single by Cesar Hernandez.
"The first one is going to be special no matter what, but against a guy like that who's had such a great career, it's pretty cool to be able to say my first hit was off Stephen Strasburg," Knapp said. "I'm honestly glad it's out of the way now and we can just go and play. It was a big win, so it was good."
Hellickson has not allowed a home run in seven consecutive starts, dating to last September, which is the longest such streak for a Phillies starter since Roy Halladay in 2011 (10 starts). … Washington lost its first series at Citizens Bank Park since April 2015. … Jeremy Guthrie, victim of a 135.00 ERA after Saturday night's debacle, was designated for assignment Sunday morning by Washington. The Nationals added a reliever, Matt Albers, to boost their depleted bullpen.