Oblique tear puts Nats’ Desmond on the disabled list

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The Washington Nationals’ list of serious injuries to key players got longer Sunday when they put shortstop Ian Desmond on the disabled list with a tear in his left oblique. Desmond had been playing with the injury since at least early June — and played well — but with little improvement since the All-Star break. The hope is rest will help to heal him for the team’s anticipated playoff stretch run.

After playing in 16 of the Nationals‘ 18 innings on a cool, rainy Saturday, Desmond told the training staff Sunday morning he felt like he’d been hit in the side with a bat. That pain was not new, but the team felt it was time to send the shortstop for an MRI to be sure of what was going on inside his oblique muscle. What they found confirmed their assumption that he was dealing with a slight tear.

Outfielder Corey Brown is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse before Monday’s game in New York to take Desmond’s spot on the 25-man roster.

“That’s a big loss,” said second baseman Danny Espinosa, a true shortstop who will take over there while Desmond is out.

Ian’s done unbelievable this year. To lose him for a couple weeks, it hurts.

“It’s hard to replace an All-Star. You can’t.”

Desmond becomes the 16th National to go on the disabled list. Since spring training, the Nationals have been without — at various times — their right fielder, left fielder, third baseman, closer, catcher and projected No. 5 starter. And that’s only the start of the list.

“I know a lot of clubs have been hit,” manager Davey Johnson said. “But we’ve been lambasted with injuries to key people.”

Losing Desmond, however, might be the cruelest blow. The shortstop, who’s also played superb defense, had been the Nationals‘ most consistent hitter, batting .286 with a .322 on-base percentage, 17 home runs and 24 doubles. Since the All-Star break, though he hasn’t started six of the previous nine games, he’s hitting .300. And since this injury was first mentioned June 16, Desmond is hitting .337 with eight homers and 17 extra-base hits.

“Shows you how tough he is to go out there and playing through it,” Johnson said. “I’m always on the players’ side to be on the safe side. If ever I find where he’s got something, I don’t play him. But he’d been playing with it for so long. He was playing so good with it, hitting rockets. I just couldn’t read it.”

Desmond told Johnson in the sixth inning of Saturday’s nightcap that if he were to make a double switch he’d be fine with coming out. When the soreness first cropped up, it improved fairly quickly, so once he came out of the All-Star break — skipping the game out of fear of further injuring himself — and it flared up, Desmond was waiting for when it would calm down. Saturday he realized it might not.

“It wasn’t getting any warmer [Saturday], and it wasn’t stopping raining and it was just like, ‘I’ve had enough for today,’” he said. “I just was ready for [the pain] to stop.”

But with the bases loaded for Desmond’s at-bat in the sixth inning, he convinced Johnson to let him bat. Johnson lamented the decision Sunday.

“I don’t know if that was where he hurt it [worse] right there,” Johnson said. “I should have hit for him.”

Desmond did not feel he injured himself further by continuing to play, though.

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