ATLANTA — Through a Washington Nationals season in which time has often been marked by which key player was missing with injury, Danny Espinosa has been immune. Manager Davey Johnson calls him “my little iron man” and Espinosa has played in 144 of the Nationals’ 146 games this season.
But his durability could be tested soon. The second baseman will visit with Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih on Monday to have an MRI on his left shoulder. He is expected to miss most, if not all, of the Nationals’ upcoming series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After a series in which he went 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts, Espinosa informed hitting coach Rick Eckstein late in Sunday night’s 5-1 loss that he was feeling weakness in his shoulder.
Johnson pinch hit for him in the ninth inning and said later that Espinosa had been asking Adam LaRoche, who missed most of the 2011 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, what he felt like last year in an attempt to get a handle on the issue.
“He doesn’t have any strength,” Johnson said. “He never wants to come out of the game, but I wasn’t going to let him hit left-handed and he said it’s even bothering him right-handed. So I’m very concerned about him.”
Johnson said he thought the issue might’ve been plaguing Espinosa for about a week or so. He would become the final projected Opening Day starter to be afflicted with an injury that kept him out of multiple games if it is indeed something serious.
“He’s hurting,” Johnson said. “For him to want to come out, he’s my little iron man. Hopefully we’ll know more tomorrow but he’ll probably for sure miss the Dodgers series.”
The Nationals have played the last four games without left fielder Michael Morse, who’s recovering from a bone bruise and a torn sheath in his left wrist. They’re hoping to get Morse back in the lineup on Tuesday but that is uncertain.
Through a team spokesman, Espinosa declined comment, but there’s no question his would be the latest devastating blow to the Nationals if his absence is an extended one and affects their playoff run — particularly with how well he’d been hitting in the second half.
Entering this past series in Atlanta, Espinosa was hitting .284 with nine home runs and 14 doubles since the All-Star break.
His defensive presence has been one of the Nationals’ most important assets this season, as he’s emerged as a Gold Glove candidate at second base and made shortstop Ian Desmond’s extended absence a non-issue with his ability to transition to the left side of the infield.
The Nationals expect to know more after Espinosa’s visit with Douoguih on Monday.
“My little iron man at second’s under the weather and trying to play through it,” Johnson said. “I’m a little worried about [him].”