The MRI on second baseman Danny Espinosa’s left shoulder Monday revealed a bone bruise inside the capsule of his shoulder, which Espinosa called, “the best news that we could have gotten.” Espinosa received a cortisone shot Monday and may return as soon Wednesday when the Nationals face the Dodgers in a doubleheader at Nationals Park.
Espinosa has played with “zero strength” in his shoulder since Sept. 8, he said, when he injured himself diving for a groundball against the Marlins. Espinosa kept the injury to himself until Sunday night, when Manager Davey Johnson pinch-hit for him in the ninth inning.
When Espinosa went for his MRI on Monday, he feared the worst. After talking with doctors and first baseman Adam LaRoche, he learned he showed the symptoms of a labrum tear. The injury would have required major surgery in the offseason. Last year, LaRoche underwent surgery in May to repair a torn labrum, and the affects remained into this season.
“By far, it was the best thing that could’ve happened,” Espinosa said. “If it was any type of tear, they would’ve given me some type of shot to get through it and been able to stay afloat, I guess. But because of the fact that it was only a bruise, and it was the amount of inflammation inside my shoulder that was not allowing me to do anything, this was the best thing we could get.”
The Nationals dodged a bullet with the diagnosis. Espinosa is one of the best defensive second basemen in the majors, and in the second half he has hit .272/.323/.449. With the help of a cortisone shot, Espinosa hopes he can return to 100 percent. He will take swings tomorrow, and if he feels strong enough, he’ll play.
“I think it’s just feeling,” Espinosa said. “Everyone thought it was pain. It wasn’t pain I was struggling with to play. The pain was just doing everyday things, taking your shirt off, changing clothes, laying in bed on your shoulder, trying to get out of bed, that was more painful than actually playing.
“Playing I just had zero strength. When it first happened, trying to play catch, trying to lift my arm up to play catch, I was having a hard time lifting my arm up. It was just so much weakness in my shoulder that I couldn’t do anything with it.”
Before the game he hurt his shoulder, Espinosa had recovered a rocky offensive first half. Since Sept. 8, Espinosa went 2 for 25 with 12 strikeouts, affected by the lack of strength in his shoulder. Against the Braves this weekend, Espinosa went 0 for 11 with nine strikeouts and a double play.
At first, Espinosa assumed he was swinging too late. But when he watched film of his at-bats, he saw himself dropping his back shoulder as he started his swing.
“My first move I’m trying so hard to swing down on the ball and it just collapses,” Espinosa said. “It’s just collapse, collapse, collapse. [LaRoche] said last year when he tore his labrum, that’s what he was trying to do. I couldn’t get my top hand to the ball. No matter how hard he tried, it was not going to get there. And that was exactly what I felt.”
Espinosa said he could already feel the effects of his cortisone shot. He said he may require another injection later in the season or in the playoffs.
“I just had so much weakness there,” Espinosa said. “I’ll be able to tell right away if I get to BP and I feel different.”
In June, mired in a slump because of weakness in the AC joint of his right shoulder, Ryan Zimmerman received a cortisone shot in his shoulder. Since then, Zimmerman has hit .332/.396/.598 with 19 homers in 75 games. “I hope I can get that the last two weeks,” Espinosa said.