VIERA, Fla. - Danny Espinosa was planning on participating in the World Baseball Classic. He had intended to suit up for Team Mexico and was looking forward to wearing a jersey with the Mexican flag, honoring his parents’ heritage in the process.
That won’t be happening.
Espinosa told reporters yesterday that he has decided to skip the WBC and will instead stay with the Nationals for the entirety of spring training.
The 25-year-old learned early this offseason that he played out the end of the 2012 campaign with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, which he decided to rehab instead of undergoing surgery to repair the damage. Although he has insisted his shoulder is strong and he’ll be ready to go this spring, Espinosa is bypassing the WBC, deciding to put full focus on his health and being in the best shape possible on opening day.
Manager Davey Johnson has said he envisions Espinosa making great strides this season, much like Ian Desmond did in his third full big league campaign last year. The Nationals’ starting second base job is Espinosa’s to lose, so long as his health isn’t an issue and he can produce offensively with his shoulder at its current state.
Roger Bernadina, on the other hand, isn’t coming off a significant injury, and with all three starting spots in the Nats’ outfield already accounted for, he doesn’t have a starting gig that he needs to solidify. Bernadina is in great shape (at least, he sure as heck looks it) and barring injury, can be confident he’ll be on the Nationals’ 25-man roster out of spring as a reserve outfielder.
In addition, Bernadina - a Curacao native who spends his offseasons in Amsterdam - really wants to get a chance to represent his country.
That’s why he’s opted to play for Team Netherlands in the WBC. Bernadina is set to leave for Taiwan on Feb. 24, and depending on how far his squad advances in the tournament, he could be gone for a few weeks.
“I’m excited,” Bernadina said. “I’m looking forward to playing in that tournament. Last time I heard it was good, so I want to play myself this time.”
Bernadina has represented the Netherlands once before, in the 2007 European Championship in Spain, where he helped lead his team to the title and made the tournament’s All-Star team in the process. He also had a chance to suit up for Team Netherlands in the WBC back in 2009, but as an unproven player looking to establish himself and impress his coaches, he opted to remain in camp with the Nats.
This time around, Bernadina is coming off a season in which he appeared in 129 big league games, batted .291 and posted a .777 OPS, both career highs.
“At that time, it was different,” Bernadina said. “I had to make the (Nationals). Now, I don’t say I don’t have to make the team now, but it’s a different situation than before. It’s something that I wanted to experience myself and see what happens.”
One of the downsides to competing in the WBC, of course, is that you’re not around your big league team for an extended stretch. While his Nationals teammates are sweating out workouts in Viera, Bernadina will be across the world playing in tournament games.
“Yeah, of course, it’s mixed feelings,” Bernadina said. “You want to be with your team, too, but I made the decision to go there and play over there. That’s the decision that I make and I’m not looking back on it.”
With Espinosa dropping out, the only other National joining Bernadina in WBC play is Gio Gonzalez, who will suit up for Team USA.