PHILADELPHIA — Danny Espinosa was not in the Washington Nationals’ lineup on Wednesday for the second game of their three-game series with the Phillies and the second baseman did not seem pleased to be sitting.
Espinosa, hitting .348 with a .444 on-base percentage since a cortisone shot was administered to his left shoulder for a bone bruise eight days ago, sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park in his street clothes for nearly an hour Wednesday afternoon.
When reporters asked about his day off, Espinosa had been given no explanation for why he was out of the lineup.
“Ask Davey,” Espinosa said. “It’s his decision, so go ask him the reasoning. I’d like to know, too.”
Espinosa said his shoulder was “100 percent,” and was as surprised as anyone to see Steve Lombardozzi’s name in the lineup at second base and batting seventh.
Johnson felt Espinosa, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Tuesday night, had been “overswinging” lately and he wanted to give Lombardozzi an opportunity to start.
“Lombo’s been a mainstay on this club, too,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to completely shut him down.”
Lombardozzi has collected 404 plate appearances this season by bouncing around wherever the Nationals have needed him. At first that was in left field when Michael Morse, and subsequently Jayson Werth, were hurt. Then it was at second with Espinosa shifting over to shortstop with Ian Desmond out.
But since Desmond returned in mid-August, Lombardozzi’s playing time has been cut significantly and Johnson wanted to use the opportunity where he saw one of his players pressing to give another a chance to play.
“(Lombardozzi’s) one of the guys that I’ve really slighted the most,” Johnson said. “He was an everyday player and playing great… and then I just shut him down and started playing the other guys when they got healthy. Playing time just diminished, but he can play. So I want to keep him in there.”
But Johnson’s claim that Espinosa has been pressing lately isn’t fully displayed in his numbers, though he’s had three hitless games in his last five.
Espinosa had three hits in the Nationals’ 12-2 win over the Brewers on Monday and has looked much more like himself at the plate since his Sept. 17 cortisone shot.
“He’s been swinging awfully hard and I just wanted to let him sit back and relax a little bit,” Johnson said, noting Espinosa is 3-for-16 with four strikeouts and three walks against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. “The last couple games it looks like he’s been overswinging.
“I know he’s an intense competitor and I’m sure he thinks I’m an idiot. Maybe I am. But that’s what I’m doing.”