The Washington Nationals, a team that has withstood the disabled-list stints of 14 different players, crossed their fingers Saturday morning and hoped they weren’t dealing with another significant loss.
Shortstop Ian Desmond was getting treatment early Saturday morning on a sore side, a left oblique issue according to manager Davey Johnson. There was no lineup posted in the clubhouse as the manager waited to see if Desmond would be able to get loose enough to play.
That was apparently the case as Desmond was in the lineup, batting fifth. The Nationals will likely have to monitor this issue with Desmond, though, as oblique issues can be extremely touchy.
Before getting the OK, though, Johnson said he might shy away from playing Desmond, choosing most likely to move second baseman Danny Espinosa to shortstop and playing Steve Lombardozzi at second base. The first Johnson heard of the issue was after Friday night’s game.
“I’d say the chance is pretty good he’d get off,” Johnson said just after 11 a.m. “Maybe even tomorrow. I did talk to Desi and he said he felt better yesterday. He was in the hot tub early. My tendency is always to nip it in the bud, so we’ll see. I’m still waiting on the report.”
Desmond has played all but one of the Nationals’ 62 games this season and has been one of only two of the Nationals’ projected Opening Day lineup to avoid some sort of injury. Only Desmond and Espinosa have not missed time with an injury, even minor, this season.
In that time, Desmond has been one of the Nationals’ most consistent hitters. He’s hit .266 with nine homers and a team-leading 17 doubles and played superb defense on a nightly basis. The Nationals have weathered the loss of several players this season, including their right fielder, their catcher, their third baseman, their left fielder and their closer. Losing Desmond for any extended period would be a significant blow.
“I like him in the lineup, obviously,” Johnson said. “But it’s just one battle. I noticed the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez sitting. They rest people. I believe in it.
“I’ve said this 100 times: You win with 25 players. I’m always very concerned about anybody having a little nagging injury. I’d rather nip it in the bud. It’s such a long season and we’re just in the infancy with the season… I’m kind of gun-shy with these injuries. If I know of something and I don’t let somebody else play, I’m the idiot.”
Espinosa, a natural shortstop, was the more likely choice to play there, Johnson said, because he’s got the background and played there some during spring training. While Lombardozzi has performed adequately when the Nationals have used him on the left side of the infield, he’s a true second baseman and has been getting most of his playing time lately in left field. The transition, Johnson felt, would be easier for both Espinosa and Lombardozzi to play their natural positions.
All of that, however, appeared moot after Desmond was deemed healthy enough to play.
Adam LaRoche, however, was missing from the lineup for the second time in the last three games. LaRoche, who dealt with a left foot injury in spring training and a sore oblique in the beginning of May, fouled a ball off his right foot on Tuesday night in Toronto. He was given the day off, replaced then by Tyler Moore. With the Nationals facing left-hander Andy Pettitte, Johnson may have seen this as a good time for him to rest the foot even more.
Here are the full lineups as the Nationals look to even the series with the Yankees:
Danny Espinosa 2B
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Michael Morse RF
Ian Desmond SS
Tyler Moore 1B
Xavier Nady LF
Jesus Flores C
Jordan Zimmermann P
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Raul Ibanez LF
Russel Martin C
Eric Chavez 3B
Andy Pettitte P