Infield depth could be seriously tested if Escobar misses time

The sight of Alcides Escobar writhing in pain on the ground Monday night after fouling a ball of his left knee, then needing major assistance from manager Davey Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard just to walk off the field, was plenty disheartening for the Nationals.

But the realization of what an injury to Escobar would mean for the Nats infield moving forward was downright frightening.

Escobar-Helped-Off-Field-Injured-Sidebar.jpgFortunately, it doesn’t appear the club will have to confront that issue head-on. X-rays taken on Escobar’s knee were negative, Martinez revealed after the 7-4 loss to the Phillies, and he’s day-to-day with a contusion.

Still, a Nationals team that already was thin on infielders could find itself down to bare bones if Escobar needs to miss any time.

The only middle infielder on the bench entering Monday was Adrián Sanchez, who took over Escobar’s No. 2 spot in the lineup but played second base, with Luis García shifting to shortstop. That’s not a pairing Martinez is going to want to proceed with for anything other than a one-day, fill-in situation.

But it’s not like the organization is swimming in infielders who could be summoned from the minors on short notice to help fill the gap. The only other infielder on the 40-man roster is Yasel Antuna, a 23-year-old playing for Single-A Wilmington.

The starting infielders for Triple-A Rochester currently are second baseman Jake Noll (who has spent some time in the big leagues) and shortstop Jecksson Flores (a 27-year-old who has never reached the majors).

The only other possible alternative may be Jordy Mercer, the veteran infielder who spent the season’s first half on the Nationals roster but has been on the 10-day injured list since July 21 with a left calf strain. Mercer has been rehabbing with the club, but he hasn’t appeared in any minor league rehab games.

Then again, the Nats nearly found themselves in a huge dilemma Monday night, after Martinez sent backup catcher Riley Adams to pinch-hit for Sanchez with the game on the line. With Escobar already out and Sanchez now out of the game as well, there were zero infielders left on the active roster.

What would they have done had they rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth and forced extra innings? Martinez talked around the question and never specifically said, but he mentioned the possibility of Adams or Ryan Zimmerman taking over in left field. Conceivably, center fielder Lane Thomas could’ve moved in to play second base.

It never came to any of that, because the Nationals’ ninth-inning rally was thwarted, and they were left to suffer a 7-4 loss.

But it did serve as a reminder just how thin the organizational depth chart remains at some positions. So much so that an injury to Alcides Escobar could prove devastating to the club.

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