Espinosa reinstated from DL, optioned to Triple-A

PHILADELPHIA - The Nationals today officially made a move that has been expected for the last couple of weeks: They optioned second baseman Danny Espinosa to Triple-A Syracuse.

Espinosa was placed on the disabled list back on June 4 with a fractured right wrist. He got a cortisone shot in the wrist in order to relieve some of the inflammation in there and had played six games with Syracuse on a minor league rehab assignment.

Today, the Nats reinstated Espinosa from the DL and officially sent him down to Triple-A, with the hopes that he’ll be able to find his swing at the minor league level and come back up to the bigs to help them later on this season.

Espinosa slugged 21 home runs with the Nats in 2011, and put up an impressive .299/.354/.493 slash line during a strong two-month stretch last season. But he struggled mightily with the Nats this year, posting a .158/.193/.272 line in 44 games. He had just 12 extra-base hits in 158 at-bats, and posted 47 strikeouts to just four walks.

Espinosa broke his wrist back on April 14 when he was hit by a Paul Maholm fastball, and after being told that he merely had a bad bone bruise and then playing through some discomfort for more than a month, he finally learned that the wrist was broken in late May.

The 26-year-old took five games off to try and let the broken bone in his wrist heal, and then returned to action. He still was ineffective at the plate, however, and finally was placed on the DL early this month.

I had heard that the initial plan was to option Espinosa to Syracuse outright when the Nats made their host of roster moves a couple of weeks ago, but the team decided to change course and put Espinosa on the DL before sending him down. Espinosa’s response to the move was to clean out his locker in the Nationals’ clubhouse - an unusual action for a player placed on the disabled list.

Now, Espinosa will need to earn back his spot on the Nats’ 25-man roster. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and four strikeouts today, and is now 2-for-21 with 14 strikeouts in seven games with the Chiefs. Numbers like that won’t get him back to the bigs, and with Anthony Rendon hitting .338 this season while showing good pop in addition to playing solid defense, Espinosa’s chances of regaining the Nats’ starting second base job might be slipping away.

He does have the backing of manager Davey Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo, but the offensive production will need to improve before Espinosa is given another chance at the major league level.

“Now that Danny’s healthy, now he needs to go ahead and show what he’s capable of doing,” Johnson said on Monday. “He certainly has the talent to do it. What Rendon’s doing shouldn’t have any bearing on what he’s doing. He needs to get comfortable both sides of the dish and do the things he’s capable of doing. I know he’s handling it defensively.

“But he just needs to get in a good frame of mind and get in a good groove left(-handed) and right(-handed), and not worry about anything other than that.”

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