NEW YORK — Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa was out in the batting cage early at Citi Field Friday afternoon, along with several teammates, taking batting practice for the first time since being hit with a pitch in the right wrist on Sunday.
Espinosa, who took grounders during batting practice on Wednesday, has not played since getting hit as he’s worked with the training staff to reduce the swelling and pain in the wrist area. He and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is dealing with left hamstring cramping, were both out of the Nationals’ lineup against the Mets on Friday night.
That Espinosa took early batting practice at all figured to be a good sign that he’d play, though manager Davey Johnson said the chances were 50-50 on Wednesday. Espinosa even said as much himsef, saying he felt significantly better and the stiffness and swelling in his wrist had mostly dissipated.
“It’s going to be painful for a while to touch,” he said. “It’s just a bone bruise and it’s right on he skin, there’s no meat around it. All the stiffness and the swelling has actually gone out of my wrist the last couple days so my hand strength and the way my wrist moves, it feels a lot better.”
But, as he often does, Johnson wanted to see his second baseman go through a full, on-field workout that included hitting and infield work and then he would allow him to play the following day.
“He’s an iron man,” Johnson said. “If I see him go through a full workout he’ll be available (Saturday). My rule is if I see him go through a full workout and make it out all right then they can play the next day. He hasn’t even had BP on the field (before Friday), so he’s not available.”
As for Zimmerman, he said he felt improved on Friday but he went to take some ground balls and test the hamstring a bit before batting practice. It was a joint decision among Zimmerman, the Nationals’ trainers and Johnson that he would sit out tonight and try to get two full days of rest (coupled with Thursday’s off day).
Zimmerman, who said he was convinced the issue was nothing more than a lingering cramp, was optimistic he could play Saturday. It’s difficult, he said, for him to play at less than his maximum effort. They didn’t want to take the chance that he could do something more detrimental, particularly with it being a seemingly minor issue and the early state of the season.
“It so it’s going to be a cool night so I figured if I played him tonight I’d be taking a chance and he definitely wouldn’t play tomorrow,” Johnson said. “So let’s just try to nip it in the bud.”
Steve Lombardozzi, who had two hits in each of the three games he played in Espinosa’s place in Miami (going 6-for-14 in that stretch), was in at second base for the fourth straight day. Chad Tracy took Zimmerman’s spot at third.
“It takes 25 to win,” Johnson said. “They’ve all got to get in, they’ve all got to start feeling good so they can contribute… If we’ve got any nagging injuries I’m going to sit ‘em.”
Here are the full lineups for what figures to be an exciting pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey:
Denard Span CF
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper LF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Ian Desmond SS
Chad Tracy 3B
Steve Lombardozzi 2B
Kurt Suzuki C
Stephen Strasburg P
Jordany Valdespin CF
Daniel Murphy 2B
David Wright 3B
Ike Davis 1B
John Buck C
Lucas Duda LF
Marlon Byrd RF
Ruben Tejada SS
Matt Harvey P