Early reports positive on Espinosa’s shoulder

VIERA, Fla. - A fairly quiet day at Space Coast Stadium is winding to a close, as players and coaches who spent much of the morning getting physicals have pretty much all rolled out for the day.

In addition to the final group of pitchers reporting to the Nationals’ facilities, we also saw a few more position players arrive today.

Center fielder Denard Span, infielder Chad Tracy, first basemen Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero, outfielder Corey Brown and infielder Will Rhymes all checked in two days prior to the official report date for position players.

Span came in carrying his stuff in a Minnesota Twins bag, which he joked he needed to upgrade. Same goes for Dan Haren, who tossed his Angels bag in front of his locker before going to get his physical.

Span drove to Viera from Tampa, where he lives in the offseason, late last night. He got himself settled and tried to get a good night’s sleep, but said he was too anxious to get to bed right away.

An excited yet tired Span met with a group of print/Internet reporters this morning before getting in a workout and doing a few on-camera interviews for D.C. TV stations in the afternoon.

Since announcing at NatsFest that he had been diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder early this offseason and that he was opting to rehab the injury instead of having surgery, Danny Espinosa has expressed complete confidence that he’s in great shape and will be ready to go for opening day. Espinosa says he’s able to swing a bat just fine and the shoulder feels strong.

Today, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nats consulted with Espinosa after he learned that he had indeed torn his rotator cuff, and the sides agreed that rehabbing the injury was the best course of action. Had Espinosa gotten surgery to repair the damage, he would have missed the first two months of the regular season.

“I think he’s come through all the stress tests that we give him, the strength tests, and he feels good,” Rizzo said. “He’s a ballplayer. He knows what he can take and what would hurt his performance and he feels good about entering the season.”

Manager Davey Johnson has gotten nothing but good reports on Espinosa so far, both from the second baseman himself and those that have seen him work out.

“I talked to Danny and he looks in great shape,” Johnson said. “He’s always strong. He feels like he did enough peripherally around the shoulder so it’s not going to be a problem. He said he’s been swinging a lot, he feels great.

“I talked to (hitting coach) Rick Eckstein and he said he really likes the way he’s swinging so I don’t think that’s the problem, although I am happy that he’s not going to the World Baseball Classic because I would rather go slow with him and make sure there are no flare-ups from it and he’s all recovered. But he looks great.”

Espinosa spent this offseason strengthening the muscles around the rotator cuff, hoping that if the rest of his shoulder is in great shape, it will mask the issue with the rotator cuff itself.

Because the injury is to his left, or non-throwing shoulder, Espinosa doesn’t expect the problem to affect him defensively. The issue will be whether he’s able to do enough at the plate, and while it’s very early in spring, all signs appear positive on that front so far.

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