The Nationals acquired Cesar Izturis on waivers today out of stark necessity. With Mark DeRosa’s strained groin keeping him sidelined and Ian Desmond on the disabled list for several more weeks, they had no viable option if shortstop Danny Espinosa or Steve Lombardozzi had to leave tonight’s game.
Zachary Walters may be their utility infielder someday soon, perhaps even in September, but he had only spent three days at Class AAA Syracuse, and the Nationals preferred a veteran like Izturis. The Nationals got a scare Sunday, when Espinosa’s hand was stepped on as he slid into a base, and they decided they could go no longer without a backup.
“We were naked there,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “We didn’t have any insurance policy. When Desi went down about 2 weeks ago, the only guy who would probably fit the bill was Walters, and we did move him up a few days ago, but he’s still very young. I would want to, in a pennant race, have a veteran shortstop out there.”
Izturis, 32, is hitting only .235/.248/.333 this season. But he’s regarded as a tremendous defensive player and gives the Nationals a reliable option all over the infield.
Several Nationals welcomed the move. Last weekend in Milwaukee, Desmond watched Izturis warm up and said, “He can pick it.” Jayson Werth overlapped with Izturis back in the mid-2000s with the Dodgers, and he remembered Izturis as a good teammate. DeRosa, who played a season with Izturis in Chicago, said he’ll make a “seamless transition” into the Nationals’ clubhouse.
“To have him available, it kind of must be our year,” Johnson said. “Very good defender, plays second or short and a switch-hitter – awfully good insurance. It’s like having spot starters in the bullpen. I sleep better.”
Izturis will not be here in time for tonight’s game and will join the Nationals tomorrow. What would the Nationals do if something happens to Lombardozzi or Espinosa tonight?
“I don’t want to think about that,” Johnson said. The likeliest option would probably be Ryan Zimmerman playing short with Chad Tracy at third. Michael Morse, who came up as a shortstop, took grounders there before the game, but “I’m trying to guard against that at all costs,” Johnson said.
DeRosa will remain with the Nationals on the road trip, except to miss a few days to see specialist Dr. Bill Meyers in Philadelphia. DeRosa missed two months with an oblique strain, but this injury is not related. He is not certain if it is a groin injury or a hernia. The Nationals listed him with an abdominal strain.
“I guess after playing the other day, I dove, and I don’t know what I got,” DeRosa said. “A tweaked groin or something doesn’t feel right. It’s not the oblique.”
DeRosa hurt the muscle just from wear and tear after he played in the first game of the Nationals-Marlins doubleheader Friday. On Saturday, he did not think he could play. He did not expect the injury would sideline him a full 15 days, but he realized the Nationals needed a healthy player.
“Yesterday, it felt progressively better. Then today, it feels better. I’m sure tomorrow it’ll feel good. But I understand that situation. They’ve got a crunch on healthy players on the roster at premium positions.
“It’s a situation where our roster is kind of hamstrung with Desi being down and Danny and Steve have been playing up the middle predominantly every inning of every game. If I can’t have the ability to go out and help them out up the middle, then a move has got to be made.”
DeRosa’s season has been interrupted constantly by injuries and, worse, personal tragedy. As he rehabbed from his oblique injury, his father, Jack DeRosa, died after a long battle with cancer. DeRosa kept a positive attitude about his latest setback.
“It is what it is, man,” DeRosa said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. These guys have kept me upbeat. We’re in first place. They like having me around. I enjoy being around.”