- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Here’s a correction for you, about four months late:

Before exhibition games started in spring training, we did a column discussing Danny Espinosa’s torn rotator cuff and his plan to play through the injury. We called it a small red flag.


Massive red flag, and it should have been dealt with as soon as the tear was discovered.

No, I’m not a doctor. No, I don’t play one on TV. No, I didn’t stay at a particular hotel last night. No, I don’t claim to be smarter than people who are medically trained.

But have we ever seen a torn muscle heal? No. It may not get worse. It does not get better. Ryan Zimmerman’s did not get better several years back. Adam LaRoche’s did not get better two years ago. Danny Espinosa’s was not going to get better and, even though he’d strengthened the shoulder to where he thought he could play through it, doing so was not sound advice.

Got a torn muscle? Have surgery. Right now.

More than two months into the season, the Nationals finally placed Espinosa on the disabled list Tuesday. It was one of a flurry of moves the team needed to make, mostly with its pitching staff, as it attempts to regain some of its luster lost in a 28-29 start.

Espinosa was disabled for a wrist injury, suffered way back in April when he was hit by a pitch from Atlanta’s Paul Maholm. It may have as much to do with his miserable start — a .158 batting average — as his shoulder. But you can’t help but wonder if the shoulder isn’t a large part of it, too. A torn rotator cuff hurts and, no matter how much you strengthen the shoulder, it can’t be comfortable playing with one.

If he’d opted for the surgery, he wouldn’t have been playing in April. But that’s a chicken-egg argument that does no good. The point is, the surgery should have been done as soon as the tear was discovered. It has to be done eventually. Why wait?

Espinosa said in February he wanted to avoid surgery when the injury was discovered because doing so would have cost him the first month of this season. Espinosa is what is often called a “gamer,” someone who wants to play through anything and everything. It is admirable that the game means so much to him that the thought of missing any kind of time is abhorrent.

This is where someone needs to step in, be it manager Davey Johnson or general manager Mike Rizzo or a doctor — someone, anyone — and take the decision out of a player’s hands. Because as much as Espinosa didn’t want to miss the first part of the season, isn’t dragging around a .158 batting average essentially doing exactly that? He’s been of no use to the Nationals and he hasn’t fixed his injuries.

They need to go in and fix that shoulder now. Yes, it will cost Espinosa the rest of this season. Let him take the extra time to rehab and get it as strong as he has this season, without that strength having to cover for a torn rotator cuff.

Espinosa’s struggles this season have made him somewhat of a poster child for the Nats’ bad start. With rookie Anthony Rendon recalled Tuesday, very quickly after being promoted to Triple-A Syracuse to play second, the window for Espinosa may be short if Rendon plays well the rest of the season.

If that happens, let Espinosa come back and battle for the position in the spring. Stronger, with a fixed shoulder (and wrist). Yeah, he’s always going to strike out a lot. He’ll likely never hit .300. But he’s quite good defensively and he’s capable of 20-25 home runs in a season. Rendon may turn out to be all that and more, in which case the position will be his fair and square.

But Espinosa is not a .158 hitter with almost no power. If he is going to lose the position, he deserves the chance to lose it when he’s healthy and he isn’t that now. Chalk up 2013 as a mistake. Do the surgery. Now.

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