With the discomfort in his right wrist persisting, Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa went for additional testing on Thursday and Friday. The tests revealed a broken bone in the wrist and fragments that had been chipped off that bone that Espinosa had been trying to play with since April.
Espinosa was hit with an 88-mph fastball from Atlanta Braves left-hander Paul Maholm on April 14. X-rays done on the wrist initially showed no break, but the issue was obscured by inflammation. Espinosa missed the Nationals’ next four games and the returned to his spot in the every day lineup, understanding that it would probably take him more time to feel entirely healed.
The discomfort never fully dissipated, though, so while the Nationals were on the west coast, Espinosa asked the team if they could take another look at it. He visited with Dr. Ken Means in Baltimore Friday morning and underwent a CT scan that revealed the full extent of his injury.
“It’s not getting worse,” Espinosa said. “But by no means has it gotten any better. So I wanted to get it checked out.
“(When I’m hitting) right-handed, to try to get on top of the ball, has probably been the worst. Left-handed, it’s felt stiff. But I thought it was nothing wrong, just the stiffness that I’ve got to deal with for a couple weeks and it would eventually go away. But it just hasn’t.”
The hope, however, is that a few days of complete rest will help to dissipate the residual pain.
“Any of the times that I had rested him, he’s gone out and thrown and hit and kept working it,” said manager Davey Johnson. “It’s kind of like, if I can equate it, like having a sprained ankle and you keep playing on it. It’s going to take twice as long.
“After talking to the doctor the best solution I can think of without (putting him on the disabled list), because he’ll play with a lot of pain, is to see if we can get by. They didn’t want to, while it was aggravated give him any kind of anti-inflammatory medicine. The best way I feel is to let him rest it for a couple days, no hitting, no throwing and see if we can’t get by the discomfort in his right wrist.”
Johnson and Espinosa said the doctors do not feel the bone chip will serve as a detriment going forward, but that the bone itself needs to complete the healing process. The possibility of removing the chip was broached, but the doctors did not believe it would move around and cause him additional pain.
If a few days of complete rest — no hitting, no fielding, no lifting — does not do the trick, Johnson said the team would likely get another opinion but a more prolonged period of rest may then be the next option.
“I guess at the end of the season, they could remove the bone fragments,” Espinosa said. “But the doctor said that’s not what’s causing the issue. It’s the main bone where the fragments came off, that’s what’s causing all the discomfort and inflammation.”
“They can’t take this out knowing that it’s going to be 100 percent all right. They said if you take that bone out, you could lose a lot of hand strength right there. So they haven’t really talked too much in-depth about what they would do, but I think it would probably just be rest.”
For now, the Nationals will play Steve Lombardozzi as their starting second baseman. They will make a roster move before Saturday’s game, though, and send back their extra pitcher in favor of another position player in light of Espinosa’s injury. Yunesky Maya is the likely candidate to be sent back to Triple-A Syracuse as he was recalled mainly as long relief insurance with Ross Detwiler ailing and Zach Duke making a spot start in his place.
The candidates for a call-up, though, are a little less clear. The only infielders on the 40-man roster in the minor leagues are Anthony Rendon and Chris Marrero.
Rendon has played just five total games at second base this season, and only three since going back down from the major leagues, and evaluations are that he is not ready to play that position yet in the major leagues. The talented prospect also recently had his wisdom teeth removed and has been out of the lineup. Marrero is exclusively a first baseman.
Infielder Jeff Kobernus, hitting well in Triple-A with a .333 average, .378 on-base percentage and .420 slugging percentage, is not on the team’s 40-man roster and they’d need to clear a spot in order to call him up and put him on it. Kobernus, who almost made the Tigers out of spring training as a Rule 5 pick, was not in the lineup for Triple-A Syracuse on Friday night, perhaps an indication that he was on his way to D.C.
As for Espinosa, he refused to use his wrist injury as a reason for his .163 average and dismal offensive start to the season.
“I won’t ever use this as an excuse for what has happened with my hitting,” Espinosa said. “I haven’t hit lately and that’s just kind of what it is. I’ll continue to work to get my hitting back to where I want it to be, but I won’t use my wrist as an excuse for me not playing up to par.”
The question, then, was why it took the infielder — whose pain threshold was well-documented when he played through a torn rotator cuff in 2012 that he spent all offseason rehabbing — so long to ask for another test.
“When you initially find out and they do the X-ray and everything they said is that there’s no break, there’s nothing wrong, as a player you say, ‘OK, well it’s going to take a few days for the pain to go away,’” Espinosa explained. “Especially in a spot like that, your wrist, your ankle, something that’s got a lot of bones, it’s going to be sore. You know you’re going to have to deal with some discomfort for two or three weeks just until everything goes away.
“But at a certain point, when I felt there was nothing getting better, just every day it wasn’t hurting, wasn’t excruciating, dying pain, but it was a discomfort every single day, I knew I just wanted to get a second opinion, especially since the inflammation was probably out, to (know for sure) that there was 100 percent nothing wrong. But like I said, they found out today that there was.”