After injuring his left shoulder diving for a ball Sept. 8 against the Marlins, Danny Espinosa quickly learned something wasn't right.
He couldn't get his bat to the ball quickly enough, forcing him to be late on pitches. When he did make contact during a game or in batting practice, he just didn't have enough strength in the shoulder to turn on the pitch and get the desired result.
The symptoms all pointed to a labrum tear, which is what first baseman Adam LaRoche had last year, an injury that required season-ending surgery and months of rehab. Espinosa went in for an MRI yesterday, and the results allowed him to breathe a sigh of relief.
The Nationals' second baseman has a bone bruise in the capsule of his left shoulder, which leaves him day-to-day instead of needing to rest for a longer period then go under the knife in the offseason.
"This is the best news that we could have gotten," Espinosa said. "If this was a rotator cuff tear or a labrum tear, it would have lingered the rest of the season. I would have had to have surgery in the offseason. This is the best. I didn't think there was going to be a bruise in there, but this was definitely the best news we could have gotten."
Espinosa got a cortisone shot yesterday, and was already feeling the benefits today. He said the shot itself was really uncomfortable, but appreciated being able to sleep through the night last night without needing to toss and turn or grit his teeth when putting on his t-shirt.
The plan now is for Espinosa to take batting practice tomorrow and then determine whether he can play in either of the two games the Nats have against the Dodgers.
"The doc said I could swing tomorrow," Espinosa said. "As long as I feel strong in swinging, it's kind of on what me and (manager) Davey (Johnson) think. It's just day-to-day."
Johnson gave a different description of how tomorrow might go, joking that Espinosa cornered him today and told the skipper he'll be ready to play.
"He's a tough kid," Johnson said. "And I'll probably have to get clearance from the doctor and then let the doctor fight Espinosa if he's not in there tomorrow."
After trying to play through the injury for a while, Espinosa finally told hitting coach Rick Eckstein late in Sunday's loss to the Braves that he was in pain and felt like he was hurting the team.
"If it was early in the year, I might've gotten it checked out a little faster, but I didn't know what happened," Espinosa said. "I just thought it was going to be sore for a little while and it'd eventually go away. I never thought that I'd lose the amount of strength that I did. It was a weird feeling both left-handed and right-handed not being able to create any bat speed or control my bat head."
Of course, Espinosa isn't the only Nationals player to get a cortisone shot in his shoulder this season; Ryan Zimmerman got one back in late June to help relieve pain coming from A/C inflammation in his shoulder and then went on an absolute tear, hitting .362 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs in his next 31 games.
"I hope I can get that (production) the last two weeks," Espinosa joked.