Bergmann will miss his next start on Saturday but will not be placed on the disabled list, according to general manager Jim Bowden.
Bergmann has been arguably Washington's best starter, and on Monday, he nearly made history by pitching the Nationals' first no-hitter against the Braves. He had a no-hitter through seven innings, but lost it on a leadoff home run to Brian McCann in the eighth.
Bergmann was strong from the very beginning. He struck out five of the first six hitters he faced and only one player reached scoring position in the first seven innings.
The day after that outing, however, Bergmann woke up and felt pain in his elbow.
"It was stiff," Bergmann said by phone. "I told the trainers immediately. It's just precautionary."
The news means the Nationals will have to call up someone from the Minor Leagues. Bowden said early this week that they were not going to rush their prospects, such as Collin Balester and Cory Van Allen, so it most likely will be a veteran pitcher getting the call. Another possibility is starting reliever Billy Traber, who was called up on Wednesday.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.