BALTIMORE - The Nationals' starting second baseman tonight will be playing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder and a broken bone in his right wrist.
Danny Espinosa came into spring training determined to play through the rotator cuff injury, insisting that after a winter of strength training focusing on the muscles around the rotator cuff, he could still be effective even with the injury.
Espinosa now is determined to play through the broken wrist, even if there's still a chip floating around in there and he has a little discomfort when swinging.
After sitting out the last five games as he rested the broken wrist, Espinosa took batting practice and didn't feel the clicking or much tightness in his wrist. He then got a good report from doctors, and that was enough for manager Davey Johnson to slot Espinosa back into the lineup, playing second base and hitting ninth.
"Danny saw the hand doctor today, and he gave him a positive OK," Johnson said. "Danny feels good about it, so he's in the lineup. ... I think it's going to be something that's kind of going to be a nuisance all year long. We got by the inflammation and the swelling has not come back and he had a full workout yesterday, so hopefully (he'll be good).
"He said it doesn't bother him to hit right-handed or left-handed and before it bothered him to swing right-handed, so hopefully he'll be good the rest of the week."
Espinosa heard from the Nats' doctors that it would likely take around three weeks of rest for the wrist to completely heal. That was more time than Espinosa was willing to wait, and with the wrist feeling better after these last six days of rest, Espinosa opted to return and try to play through the injury. He admitted that he doesn't feel 100 percent at this point, but noted that very few players are at this point.
"I thought if it was another week that would've been really, really productive, then I probably would've taken the one week," Espinosa said. "But it's not gonna be one week. It's gonna be an extended amount of time to get it fully recovered. I felt better. I don't have any pain, so I feel better."
Steve Lombardozzi had been playing well in Espinosa's absence, going 6-for-20 (.300) with two doubles and four RBIs over the last five games. Johnson was asked whether he felt he needed to have a conversation with Lombardozzi to talk with him about being moved out of the lineup, or whether he understood the situation.
"No, he doesn't understand and yes, I probably need to talk to him," Johnson said with a smile. "But he knows I think a great deal about him and he's always been a big part of the success here. But this is also about 25 guys that I've got to get going. Lombo's playing really good right now. Espinosa's very capable, and I need to get him going. The injuries to (Bryce) Harper and (Jayson) Werth have given a couple guys an opportunity that have been slow getting going but Tyler Moore now, Roger Bernadina seem to be hitting real strong.
"But you've got to have 25 guys. You don't win with 10 or 15 guys, you don't win a pennant that way. Good things can come out of this."
Johnson could have opted to use Lombardozzi as his designated hitter today, but with the Orioles starting right-hander Chris Tillman and there being a short porch in right field here at Camden Yards, Johnson went with the left-handed power bat of Chad Tracy as his DH.
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth begins his rehab appearance at high Single-A Potomac tonight as he tried to work back from a nagging right hamstring strain that has kept him out of action since May 2. The Nats don't have a good read on when Werth will be able to return from his rehab assignment and rejoin the big league lineup, largely because he's been close to returning twice previously, only to suffer setbacks.
"Stay tuned to Jayson Werth, that's what we're going to do," Johnson said. "If he has a pretty good day today and maybe tomorrow, we might see him in Atlanta (Friday). But if not, he'll stay home.
"I just hope he gets through today all right, and we'll take it from there. But he really has been moving around good in the outfield and he's taken a whole bunch of BP. He's in good spirits. I just told him, he said when he takes that first step out of the batter's box running to first, that's when it bothers him. I just told him to take it easy doing that today."