MIAMI — After playing in 84 of the Washington Nationals’ first 85 games, Ian Desmond and his troublesome left oblique will get Sunday — and possibly more — off.
The injury that kept Desmond out of the All-Star game hasn’t dampened his production at the plate: he has seven hits in his last 15 at-bats along with four steals. But the unpredictable oblique problem has left Desmond wincing in pain on the field and concerned manager Davey Johnson.
Desmond bunted in the fifth inning Saturday night because he couldn’t swing, Johnson said.
Danny Espinosa took ground balls at shortstop Sunday morning and will start there for the first time since 2010, while utilityman Steve Lombardozzi plays second. To prepare for such a contingency, Espinosa briefly played shortstop, his position coming up through the minors, during spring training.
What’s unclear, even to Johnson, is how long Desmond will be sidelined. He downplayed the injury in recent days and believed he learned how to manage it, but admitted the soreness and what movements cause it shifts.
If Desmond was simply resting for one day, Johnson would start Lombardozzi at shortstop. But given the uncertainty over Desmond’s absence — the manager hopes the disabled list isn’t necessary — Espinosa starts there instead.
Desmond has been a fixture at shortstop this year (Johnson called him Mr. Iron), playing 762 of a possible 771 innings while enjoying his best season at the plate: hitting .287 with 17 home runs, 52 RBIs and 13 steals.
— The scare over a possible trip to the disabled list for left-hander Sean Burnett ended late Saturday night. Hours earlier Johnson believed the disabled list was a “big consideration” because of lingering tightness in Burnett’s left elbow, but after Saturday’s game said anti-inflammatory medication prescribed to Burnett should address the issue and have him available Sunday.
— In the minors, Triple-A Syracuse first baseman Chris Marrero, who tore a hamstring last year, was played on the seven-day disabled list. And at Single-A Hagerstown, right-hander Alex Meyer, the No. 23 pick in last year’s draft, threw six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and no walks Saturday night.
Here are Sunday’s lineups, with plenty of shuffling for the 1:10 p.m. start:
Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
Bryce Harper, RF
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Michael Morse, LF
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Roger Bernadina, CF
Jhonatan Solano, C
Stephen Strasburg, RHP
Jose Reyes, SS
Omar Infante, 2B
Carlos Lee, 1B
Logan Morrison, LF
Hanley Ramirez, 3B
Greg Dobbs, RF
Emilio Bonifacio, CF
John Buck, C
Ricky Nolasco, RHP