Papelbon headed to DL with intercostal strain

Fellow reliever Belisle reinstated after rehab assignment

Papelbon headed to DL with intercostal strain

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals placed closer Jonathan Papelbon on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, retroactive to Monday, with a right intercostal strain and activated right-hander Matt Belisle from the DL.

There is no timetable as to when Papelbon will return to action. Papelbon, who has gone 16-for-18 in save opportunities this season, is on the DL for the first time in his 12-year career. He ranks 10th all-time with 365 career saves.

According to manager Dusty Baker, Papelbon hurt his rib cage warming up before he entered Sunday's game against the Phillies. In that game, Papelbon allowed a solo homer to Maikel Franco in the ninth inning. Once Papelbon entered the dugout after that half-inning ended, Baker didn't like the way Papelbon was stretching his body. Papelbon ended up getting the victory, thanks to the game-winning hit by Jayson Werth.

On Monday, Papelbon couldn't straighten out his body. So Baker ended up using Shawn Kelley in a save situation against the Cubs. Kelley picked up his first save of the season after striking out four batters in 1 2/3 innings.

Papelbon wasn't convinced that he should go on the disabled list, but a meeting with Baker, general manager Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Mike Maddux convinced him to do so.

"Well, obviously you don't ever want to go on the disabled list," Papelbon said. "I've never been on the disabled list. I've taken a lot of pride in never being on the disabled list. I think in my situation here, we gotta make the smart decision. It's early in the season. There's no reason to push anything right now, I believe.

"I sat down with Mike Rizzo and Dusty and Mad Dog [Maddux] last night, and Mike [Rizzo] has been great and explained the decision, and I agree with Mike. He's always, in my opinion, looked out for the best for his players, and that's what he's doing right now. A lot of general managers will just say, 'Get out there as soon as you can,' and he's looking at it in a different light. If it was up to me, I would probably run back out there as soon as I could."

With Papelbon out, Baker doesn't known who will be the Nats' closer. He said it would be a game-time decision. Kelley and Felipe Rivero have closer's experience. Then again, Baker could use a closer-by-committee if necessary.

As for Belisle, he returns to the Nationals after missing 45 games with a right calf strain. He had a 1.50 ERA in seven games with Washington before the injury, and he posted a 4.09 ERA in nine Minor League rehab appearances.

"Obviously, I want to be here and I'm happy to be back," Belisle said. "I hate that Pap had to be the one to go down. He is pretty resilient. I'm sure he will be back soon. But I'm just excited to help contribute."

Zinkie on Papelbon's injury

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Having converted 16 of 18 save chances this season, Papelbon will return to closing after his DL stay and should be retained in all leagues. Kelley, the heavy favorite to handle the ninth for Washington in Papelbon's absence, converted a save chance on Monday and owns a 2.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 11.7 K/9 rate since the outset of 2015. As a result, he should be picked up by all owners in need of saves.

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.