So far this season, the Nationals have seen their opening day catcher, shortstop, third baseman, left fielder, center fielder and right fielder land on the disabled list.
Their closer missed over half the season. Their top pinch hitter is still on the DL. Multiple relievers have missed time. Their projected fifth starter has suffered two separate injuries. Three backup catchers have been placed on the disabled list, all within two weeks of getting brought up to the big leagues.
“I know a lot of clubs have been hit,” manager Davey Johnson said yesterday. “But we’ve been lambasted with injuries to key people.”
Lambasted. What a fantastic, and accurate, word choice.
Ian Desmond is the latest guy to go down. After battling an oblique injury for the last handful of weeks, the shortstop will officially succumb to the disabled list today, with outfielder Corey Brown coming up from Triple-A to take his place on the 25-man roster.
And while the second half of this sentence might have shocked most Nats fans if they had read this back in March, of all the injuries the Nationals have suffered, Desmond’s loss might be the toughest one to deal with.
Johnson even readily admits that’s the case.
This is a guy who leads the team in home runs and doubles and is tied for the most stolen bases on the roster. Among Nationals with at least 100 at-bats, Desmond’s slugging percentage and OPS pace the team. His defense at shortstop has been stellar, and he’s turned into a team leader on and off the field.
“He’s been our MVP all year,” Mark DeRosa said. “Big hit after big hit. He’s basically been the captain of our infield for all of the first half of the season, so to lose him is tough.”
Making Desmond’s loss even tougher to take is that it looked like the Nationals were finally - finally! - getting close to having nearly everyone healthy for the first time this season. Jayson Werth and Chad Tracy (who today joined Triple-A Syracuse to continue their rehab assignments) are getting close to returning, but once they do, Desmond will likely still be out of action for at least a couple weeks.
“There was a sense of, ‘We almost have everybody back,’ ” Danny Espinosa said. “Hopefully, after these two weeks, Desi will be ready to go and this oblique will really calm down and he’ll be ready for the rest of the season. But, yeah, there kind of is that sense that we almost had our whole team back.”
The Nats certainly won’t hang their heads. Even with all the injuries they’ve suffered so far this season, they’ve still managed to put up the best record in the National League.
Espinosa can fill in at short and has started to rip the ball at the plate lately, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse are healthy and producing and the offense has made major strides in the last month or so.
The Nationals have battled through key injuries before, and they’re prepared to do it again.
“We have a lot of depth and this organization has done a great job of developing players,” Zimmerman said. “And Danny kind of slides over there and does a great job. Would we like to have Ian healthy? Obviously. But we’ve been through a lot of adversity this year. We’re just going to keep playing and doing what we’ve been doing.”