FLUSHING, N.Y. - There's been some major movement going on in the National League East lately.
First, it looked like the Braves were set to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, only to have that deal apparently fall through when Dempster seemed unwilling to go to Atlanta. Now, the Braves claim they've moved on from Dempster and are looking at other options.
Then the Marlins traded Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers. Miami followed that deal up by shipping Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate (who made Bryce Harper look silly this season, striking him out both times the two met) to the Dodgers, and there's word that Nationals-killer Josh Johnson is also being shopped.
The Phillies followed by signing Cole Hamels to a whopping six-year, $144 million extension which includes a club/vesting option for 2019.
So much for a quiet period before the trade deadline gets close. Don't expect the Nationals to follow suit and make a major move anytime soon, however. They'll look at possible options to provide depth at the middle infield spots and will talk to teams about starting pitchers that they could control past this season, but nothing big appears to be on the horizon.
Meanwhile, Danny Espinosa continues to rake from the left side of the plate lately, sending his season numbers back in the direction the Nationals expect them to be.
Since June 10, Espinosa's batting average from the left side has jumped 41 points from .188 to .229, and his OPS has risen from .556 to .660. The loop in his swing when hitting left-handed, manager Davey Johnson says, is no more.
"That's gone," Johnson said. "The loop is a result of bad timing. ... When your timing gets better, the stroke gets better because the bat gets to the ball in a more direct line and that's what he's been doing for actually about a month. It's only been the last two weeks that he's started getting results from it. But I think both sides of the plate now look fairly consistent to me. And I know they feel fairly consistent to him, and that's just part of, it's his second year up here and making adjustments to how they pitch you."
Jayson Werth is now three games into his rehab assignment, and while the results (1-for-9 with an RBI and a walk) haven't been all that impressive so far, that's not the important part at this point. Werth's surgically repaired left wrist feels good and there's no weakness in there, according to Johnson.
The Nationals will continue to let Werth steer the course of his rehab, and Johnson seems to think there's a decent chance the 33-year-old outfielder will be ready to go as early as next Tuesday, when the Nats begin a series against the Phillies, Werth's former team.
"He'll tell me. I know he's got it figured out," Johnson said. "I imagine he's going to be getting close by the time we get back to D.C. And I wouldn't be surprised if he was there waiting on us."
Once he's back with the Nationals, Werth will take over his spot in right field most days, but could also be moved over to center against left-handed starters. That would allow Johnson to rest either Bryce Harper or Roger Bernadina, both left-handed hitters.