WASHINGTON – The good news for Brandon Woodruff is that his sprained right ankle is healing fairly well.
The bad news is that the right-hander is now dealing with another, slightly more nebulous illness that will continue to sideline him, at least for the foreseeable future.
Woodruff was diagnosed with Reynaud’s Syndrome, a condition that restricts blood flow to the index, middle, and ring fingers of his right hand, causing numbness.
It’s a worrying situation for a pitcher who needs to be able to grab and feel the baseball, but Woodruff said Friday before the Milwaukee Brewers’ three-game set against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park that he’s starting to noticed an improvement.
“The way I felt today, I think it’s only going to get better,” Woodruff said. “People have dealt with this before. Someone on our team has dealt with this before. I’ve talked to them a lot about it. They dealt with it a few years ago and it took them a couple of weeks and then was it like that.” Path.
“I don’t know what that means for me. This is probably the fourth day I’ve been on the meds and today is a lot better than yesterday.”
Woodruff landed on the IL on May 30 after early exiting a start against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
He traveled back to Milwaukee to be evaluated and then met the Brewers at Wrigley Field where they began a series against the Chicago Cubs.
That’s when he realized something was wrong with his fingers.
“It’s crazy. Literally as soon as I put the IL on, the only thing I noticed was that my fingers — they’re just starting to get cold — were just freezing,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is weird.’
“The first day I came back and played ankle catch. I just noticed my fingers were turning white and I thought that was weird. Then the next day it was worse and I couldn’t feel the ball. Well, that’s when I went in.
“I had already informed them that my fingers were cold and all, but we didn’t really know what was going on. I played tag again the next day and same thing – still pretty bad – and (the team doctor) was there and He checked it out and went and had blood work done and all the tests I had done were normal.
“Basically, it’s just Raynaud’s.”
Woodruff said that as far as he knows, no one else in his family tree has the disease and he’s not sure how it came about in his case.
“Never have,” he said. “I’ve done my research and checked and cold weather can trigger it, stress can trigger it. A number of different things can trigger it.
“But it comes and goes.”
Woodruff played catch on Friday and is scheduled to throw a mound to a catcher on Saturday, which is progress. But because of persistent numbness, he can only throw fastballs and changeups.
“We’ve just been working day to day on whether it’s going to be refilled (with blood) fast enough, do I have a feeling?” he said. “Today was pretty good. The fastball switch stuff isn’t affected too much; it’s just the breaking when I really have to push down. Then it might get a bit sore because I don’t know how much pressure I’m having .’ I attract the ball and sit there and push.
“That’s a problem because you don’t want to throw off the hill and start doing things differently if you can’t really feel the ball.”
Manager Craig Counsell said Woodruff would have been reinstated from the IL on Sunday had Reynaud’s syndrome not surfaced.
Now his return is in the stars.
“It’s not great because it’s your throwing hand. But doctors believe treatment and medication will solve it,” Counsell said. “He’s seen a little progress. Hopefully we’re on the right track, but we don’t really know for how long.
“But you can’t actually pitch a baseball (at 100%), and a major league pitcher needs that. You can’t be at 70%; we need him all the way back. I don’t think there is any concern that he will be fine; it’s just the timeframe we don’t know.
Whenever he returns, Woodruff will need a minor league rehab stint of at least one start and possibly more to get back on track.
But first things first.
“I’m glad it came up when I was on the IL,” said Woodruff, who shares a team lead with Eric Lauer with five wins. He’s 5-3 overall with a 4.74 earned run average in nine starts. “Obviously I’m upset it will delay me coming back if I could.
“Apart from that, I’m doing great. The ankle is fine. I just deal with it. It’s literally a day to day. Today was better than yesterday so I’ll take that as a positive step and hopefully every day it gets better.”
The Brewers reinstated catcher Omar Narváez from the COVID-19 IL before the game and immediately added him to the lineup.
Catcher Alex Jackson was placed on the IL with a sprained left middle finger.
“He missed some time but I think the way the series is going just puts Victor (Caratini) off one night after a day game and a left-hander (Patrick Corbin) tomorrow, it just made sense for today.” said Counsel. “He’ll be sore tomorrow, but he’ll be fine.”