It has been almost three months since the Washington Nationals sent second baseman Danny Espinosa to the minor leagues, hoping he would get healthy and figure out just why his struggles offensively had become so great.
Last week, manager Davey Johnson indicated the team may not include him in their September call-ups. His play — Espinosa has hit just .208 in 69 games in the minor leagues this year — does not necessitate that they reward him with one.
But that doesn’t mean he has been forgotten, by the Nationals or anyone else in the league.
“Believe me, every park I go into people ask me about Danny,” said Espinosa’s agent, Scott Boras, who is in town for the Nationals series against the Marlins. “We all know he has phenomenal major league tools. He can play shortstop or second base in the major leagues.
“(People) want to know what he’s doing. This guy has real value. The thing is, he’s got to go through and get an approach that allows him to become more consistent. When you’re that good of a defender and you have that good of tools, you don’t have to be a great hitter. You just have to have an approach. And I think that’s what he’s working on down in Triple-A.”
Throughout Espinosa’s season, the question of health has hovered over his issues. He came into the year having spent the entire winter rehabbing a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
In mid-April, he was hit in the right wrist with a pitch that caused a hairline fracture. But because of swelling, that break was not discovered until the end of May. Three weeks ago, he was hit in the thumb with a pitch, but Boras said the wrist was the major issue this season.
Still, Boras stressed that what Espinosa needs to do most is make the mental adjustments at the plate.
“I think he wasn’t healthy at the start of the year,” Boras said. “I think his wrist, obviously, they’ve diagnosed that. We know he wasn’t. But Danny’s a gamer. He tried to play through it. Then he got a thumb thing down at Triple-A that hampered him a bit.
“When you see major league players go through this process, I’ve had it happen many times, what can happen from one year to the next is about getting a psychology, a self-understanding and then your skill level reasserts itself.”
Boras said Espinosa, whose rotator cuff tear was not revealed until he saw Dr. Lewis Yocum after the 2012 season, will likely get further testing done on his shoulder this offseason, if only to see where things are at a year later.
“Of course,” he said. “Any time any player has an kind of malady you want to look at it from year to year. But I think Espy would be the first one to say a lot of this is about getting something where you feel consistently comfortable in the batters box. He’s a switch hitter, too. You have to realize it’s a difficult path.”