HARRIS: Danny Espinosa’s injury one lingering spring concern for Nationals

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

VIERA, Fla. — The “World Series or Bust 2013” campaign has begun. Spring training is under way for the Nationals. Pitchers and catchers have reported. Position players are showing up, too. There have been plenty of hugs, backslaps and get re-acquainted conversations.

Manager Davey Johnson’s “or bust” declaration has caught on and will hang over this team all season.

The Nationals won 98 games and made the playoffs last season. They have what it takes to win it all this year and they know it. It isn’t just crazy talk.

But there is one teensy red flag waving its small self as the team begins its work.

You hear the word “tear” in relation to a muscle and your first thought is “uh-oh.” Danny Espinosa has a torn rotator cuff in his left (nonthrowing) shoulder. Uh-oh. The choices were surgery, and a couple months of the season missed, or rehabilitation work to strengthen the shoulder.

Espinosa went the rehab route, though he admits to a bit of an uh-oh of his own when he heard the diagnosis.

“They tell me it is a tear, and you can’t repair a tear without surgery,” Espinosa said Thursday before heading out to the fields for some work.

“So I’m thinking, ‘Why are we rehabbing this?’ But once I realized we were rehabbing everything else around it, to stabilize my shoulder, to make everything in my shoulder strong around it, I felt great.

“My mind is at ease knowing my shoulder is healthy now. When it was hurt and I didn’t know what was wrong, going into the offseason and finding out it was a tear, it wasn’t the best feeling in the world. But my therapist and I worked hard to get it back to strength. I know I’m going to be healthy going into the spring.”

Can he stay healthy? Will the wear and tear of the season wear down the shoulder and leave him in pain again, render him unable to hit with any power?

Espinosa thinks he can last the season, as long as he puts in the time to do his maintenance work.

Dr. Benjamin Wedro thinks so, too. Wedro runs mddirect.org. He has no knowledge of Espinosa’s shoulder or work but spoke of rotator cuffs in general. They’re different from a labrum injury, which Adam LaRoche unsuccessfully tried to play through in 2011. It may be painful at times, particularly when he has to reach up to snare a line drive. But getting through a season with such an injury is not an unrealistic idea.

“Not at all,” Wedro said.

The website emedicine.medscape.com says, “In a patient who can achieve pain-free activities of daily living in the setting of a rotator cuff tear, surgical repair may be avoided.”

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