CHICAGO — In less than two weeks, when the calendar turns to Sept. 1, rosters will expand and the Washington Nationals will be able to add a few extra players from the minor leagues to their active roster for the remainder of the season.
As it stands right now, it does not appear that second baseman Danny Espinosa will be one of those call-ups.
Espinosa, who was demoted to Triple-A on June 4, is hitting just .202 with a .267 on-base percentage and .277 slugging percentage in 238 minor league at-bats this season. And it seems the Nationals, quite frankly, don’t feel that Espinosa has done enough to earn an end-of-season return to the majors.
“Right now we’re trying to get him back on track,” manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday.
“It’s also a reward system when you get called back up. It’s a reward on how you did down there, and he’s not doing the things I know he’s capable of doing.”
The Nationals brass has discussed their probable additions once rosters expand. Ian Krol and Ryan Mattheus are likely to be among them, as will likely be a handful of other relievers and at least one more catcher, among others, though the Nationals would have to make some alterations to their 40-man roster if they intend to add anyone not currently on it.
For Espinosa, not getting called back up would mark the end of a disappointing season.
The Nationals had hoped that Espinosa’s third full season in the major leagues would serve as his breakout, much in the way Ian Desmond’s third season did in 2012, though Espinosa entered the season having rehabbed a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder all offseason. The Nationals do not believe it to be an issue, and Espinosa often said he did not see it as one.
A break in his right wrist, which occurred when he was hit with a pitch in April but not uncovered until further testing was done in late May, stole a lot of his strength and affected everything else he was trying to do to get himself right at the plate.
He was never able to get his season truly on track from that point, hitting .158 with a .193 on-base percentage and slugging .272 in 158 at-bats. His defense was never in question as he continued to play a superb second base. In the minor leagues, Espinosa has often played shortstop as well, adding to his versatility as a plus defender. But the offense is the problem.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is still an ardent supporter of Espinosa, and he wants to see the second baseman return to being an integral part of the major league team. But the results simply haven’t been there to this point, and the hope is that Espinosa will be able to continue working toward returning to the player who hit 21 home runs in his rookie season.
“There have been discussions on (Espinosa getting called up),” Johnson said. “There’s still a little time left. Just have to wait and see.”