Rizzo on Marrero call-up, Harper's knee, Espinosa's health

Having called up Chris Marrero from Triple-A Syracuse to fill the temporary 26th spot on their roster for today's doubleheader, the Nationals will need to drop a player by tomorrow to get back down to the 25-man roster limit.

They're not giving any indication yet of who will be sent down, however.

"We'll make that decision after the two games today, but the rules allow us to bring a 26th man up," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "And we felt it was the thing to do."

The Nats already had an extra reliever in their bullpen because of the recent call-up of Xavier Cedeno, so they opted for a position player this time.

It's possible Marrero goes back down after today, but the vibe I'm getting is that's unlikely. It feels like Marrero will be with the Nats for more than just the day.

Marrero, the Nats' first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has been limited by injuries in recent years, most notably a torn hamstring that really set him back during the 2012 season. He's now fully healthy, and has put up big numbers at Syracuse, hitting .304 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 55 games.

"I think (health is) the biggest reason," Rizzo said. "He's always been a good hitter with some power and just had trouble keeping himself healthy to play, to get 550 at-bats a season. We've always felt if he were to get that, he'd be a good, productive offensive player for us."

Bryce Harper was packing a bag in the clubhouse this morning, getting ready to see Dr. James Andrews down in Florida tomorrow to get a second opinion on his left knee. Harper hasn't played since May 26 because of bursitis in his knee, and he almost certainly won't be activated off the DL when he's eligible on Tuesday.

Rizzo was asked whether the Nats are worried going into this appointment with Dr. Andrews about there being something structurally wrong with Harper's knee.

"There's no worry about it," Rizzo said. "It is our protocol that players get a second opinion on any part of the body that we feel is a disabled list type of injury. Guys get second opinions all the time here, and every guy that we put on the disabled list has gotten a second opinion. We send them to our team physician, he makes his diagnosis, we start the rehab and we get a second opinion. ... That's our protocol. This is no different than when (Stephen Strasburg) went out, when (Ross) Detwiler went out, it's the same thing."

Dr. Andrews' name often scares fans because it's associated with players who need major knee reconstruction, but Rizzo said people shouldn't assume the worst with Harper just because he's going to see a specialist.

"James Andrews, we utilize him for our knees," Rizzo said. "When there was a hand injury, we didn't send him to James Andrews, we sent him to a hand specialist for a second opinion."

Rizzo said the Nats' doctors like the progress Harper's knee has made in recent days. They feel the swelling has subsided, and now they'll wait and see what Dr. Andrews has to say.

Danny Espinosa recently saw a specialist, as well - Dr. Ken Means in Baltimore - and was given a cortisone shot in his right wrist. The plan continues to be to let Espinosa rest for a few days and then send him out on a rehab assignment.

Rizzo said the Nats feel that the fracture in Espinosa's wrist has now healed and if the cortisone can clear up the inflammation in the wrist, they hope Espinosa won't be affected by the injury anymore.

"There are certain injuries that it is not going to worsen the case by letting him play through it," Rizzo said. "The bone has healed, it's structurally sound. There's a chip in there, but cortisone will relieve the pain and inflammation. We shut him down to rest and once the inflammation is totally gone he will start his baseball progression. There's no further damage that can be done to the wrist and ... Dr. (Wiemi) Douogiuh and Dr. Means feel that he should be able to participate. He may never need an operation on his wrist."

Espinosa is also playing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, an injury that he has said in the past doesn't affect him on the field. The question at this point is how much did the wrist (and possibly the rotator cuff) lead to Espinosa's ugly .158/.193/.272 slash line this season and how much of his lack of production was due to any number of other non-health-related factors.

"I think that's a question for him. How much did it affect his playing capabilities, I don't know," Rizzo said. "All we can do is when a player says he's healthy, he can play, and our doctors say he's healthy enough to play. Our decision is, let him play. The rotator cuff is an injury that should not curtail his performance whatsoever. He is one of 90 percent of players in this clubhouse that has had some sort of rotator cuff issue. If you play this game long enough, you're going to have some type of rotator cuff issue.

"It's a non-throwing arm rotator cuff issue, it's a non-fitness tear. He has 100 percent range of motion and 100 percent strength in the rotator cuff. So that is not an issue, the rotator cuff is not an issue. And the wrist, if the rehab goes as it should, the wrist shouldn't be an issue also."

Programming Note: The first game of today's doubleheader will air on MASN2, but Game 2 can be found on MASN. Make sure to switch that dial over for the second game of the day.

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