Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa played through a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder during the final weeks of last season, he revealed to reporters on Saturday at the team’s fan festival at Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
He said if he had known about the extent of the injury, he likely would not have attempted to play through the pain on the team’s playoff run.
Espinosa, who managed just one hit in 15 at-bats in the Nationals League Division Series against St. Louis, said he initially had a bruised non-throwing shoulder diagnosed after undergoing an MRI procedure in September and sought a second opinion shortly after the season from Lewis Yocum, the surgeon who previously performed Stephen Strasburg’s Tommy John elbow surgery. The player said Yocum diagnosed the tear after using contrast dye in a second MRI.
“I knew something was wrong,” Espinosa said Saturday. “The cortisone shot masked me for a little bit. Everyone kept asking me ‘Is your shoulder okay? Is your shoulder okay?’ Well, I’m not going to come out and say, ‘Yeah it hurts. My shoulder hurts. I’m just playing through pain.’”
Espinosa opted against surgery on his shoulder and instead focused on strengthening the muscles around the torn rotator cuff. Since it is already torn, Espinosa said he can’t do further damage to the shoulder by playing this season. He was cleared to begin swinging a bat at the beginning of the month and resumed full batting practice in the past week. He does not expect to be limited in spring training.
“My swing feels really good – better than it did last year,” Espinosa said. “I’m really confident in my swing right now. Maybe it’s because I have the confidence knowing my shoulder’s all right, but I do feel really good.”
Espinosa did not miss a game because of the injury, and finished the season with a .247 batting average, 17 home runs and 56 RBI. After the initial MRI in mid-September, he slumped even further, managing just two mult-hit games and one home run in the final 21 games, including the playoffs.
“I didn’t want to pull myself out not knowing what was wrong,” Espinosa said. “If I would have known what was wrong, it’s a different story. If I knew it was torn, I probably would have taken myself out because at that point, I would’ve felt like I was useless.”