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Nationals place Justin Miller on 10-day injured list with lower back strain

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The Nationals have assigned right-handed reliever Justin Miller to the 10-day injured list, the team announced Saturday. Miller was diagnosed with a lower back strain after laboring through an unsuccessful outing on Friday night. He was replaced on the 25-man roster by rookie right-hander Austen Williams, who was brought in from Triple-A Fresno and figures to be available for the remainder of the weekend series.

Miller, 31, struggled during the Nationals’ 6-3 loss to the Pirates last night. He stepped in for Matt Grace in the top of the 10th inning and induced a groundout from Starling Marte, then gave up the game-winning three-run homer to Colin Moran in the next at-bat. While he didn’t appear to be in obvious pain during the game, team doctors later determined that he had aggravated the back issues he developed during last weekend’s series against the Mets. “It just feels like somebody’s punching me in the kidney every single time I try and throw a ball,” Miller told reporters.

Prior to the diagnosis, Miller had allowed four runs, two walks, and six strikeouts over his first 6 1/3 innings of the 2019 season. (That hasn’t done much to alleviate the issues facing the Nationals’ bullpen, which currently ranks eighth-worst in the NL with a cumulative 8.12 ERA and 0.0 fWAR, per FanGraphs.) It’s still unclear whether he’ll be able to make a full comeback within such a short window, however, or whether the club will start to look at external options if Williams needs more time to get the hang of things at the major-league level.