The Washington Nationals are not expecting to have any concrete answers on an injury to second baseman Danny Espinosa’s left shoulder before Tuesday when they open a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park, a team official said.
Espinosa visited with Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih on Monday afternoon and had an MRI done one his aching left shoulder in an effort for the Nationals to figure out how severe the issue plaguing their most durable player is.
Espinosa has played in 144 of the Nationals 146 games and is the only projected opening day starter who has yet to miss time with a significant injury.
After a series in Atlanta 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.
Nationals manager Davey 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, about his symptoms when he was playing through the tear.
“He doesn’t have any strength,” Johnson said Sunday. “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 calls Espinosa “my little iron man at second,” and in a season in which significant injuries have been dealt to almost every key Nationals’ player Espinosa’s might be one of the cruelest given the timing.
The Nationals are hoping to get outfielder Michael Morse back before Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers but even if they do, their lineup will not be whole without Espinosa. Once a firm diagnosis is reached, the Nationals and Espinosa will have to figure out if the issue is one he can play through with treatment and perhaps oral anti-inflammatories or even a cortisone shot to get him through the season and potential playoff run, or if it’s something more serious and urgent.
Steve Lombardozzi is a more-than-capable back-up at second base, an exceptional player whose instincts are lauded at every turn, but he and Espinosa have different skill-sets.
While Lombardozzi, hitting .279 with a .323 on-base percentage, is more suited to the top of the Nationals’ lineup when he’s an everyday player, Espinosa is a legitimate power hitter who hits seventh when everyone is healthy — a lengthy line of threats — and is in the Gold Glove conversation with his defense at second base.
“He’s hurting,” Johnson said Sunday night. “He’ll probably for sure miss the Dodgers series.”
How much more after that, the Nationals hope to know on Tuesday.