Echoing Danny Espinosa’s confidence in his injured left shoulder, both General Manager Mike Rizzo and Manager Davey Johnson believe the second baseman can play through the torn, but rehabilited, rotator cuff without an issue.
“He feels like he did enough peripherally around the shoulder so it’s not going to be a problem,” Johnson said. “He said he’s been swinging a lot, he feels great. I talked to [hitting coach] Rick Eckstein and he said he really likes the way he’s swinging so I don’t think that’s the problem.”
Johnson was happy Espinosa opted not to play for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic so he could take a slow approach with his shoulder.
The decision to avoid surgery, which would have had Espinosa miss two months of the season, was made collectively by the second baseman, his agency, Rizzo and the Nationals’ medical staff. Espinosa worked closely with Dr. Lewis Yocum, whose second opinion revealed the torn rotator cuff after the season ended, to strengthen the protective muscles around it.
“He’s come through all the stress tests that we give him, the strength tests and he feels good,” Rizzo said. “He’s a ball player. He knows what he can take and what would hurt his performance and he feels good about entering the season.”
>>> Henry Rodriguez was throwing on Tuesday and said his elbow, which underwent surgery last August to clean up a bone spur, was feeling fine. The right-handed reliever also said he hasn’t yet thrown a bullpen session. The reason may be this: Johnson said Wednesday that Rodriguez mentioned “a little bit of tenderness” in his right elbow.
“He’s been throwing but he looks great,” Johnson said. “He’s smiling. I feel he’s going to be fine. He may only be throwing 98, but I think he’s going to be fine.”
>>> Even though Jayson Werth decided as much on his own recently, it’s becoming more likely that the Nationals will use Werth in right field and Bryce Harper in left field. And, of course, Johnson had a quip from Werth to share explaining why this was the case:
“He told me early on after we made the trade [for Denard Span], he said the perfect spot for the kid is left field because he hasn’t hit a cutoff man in two years.”
>>> Rizzo said the Nationals are done with big offseason moves, trades and signings, for now. Any more acquisitions beyond small minor league signings would be prompted by changes that occurred while in camp. While he didn’t specify what that would be, that could likely include such things as a major injury or perhaps a suspension to a big contributor.
>>> Because the Nationals’ roster is all but set, Rizzo said that although he liked the organization’s depth, it was “very, very difficult to get guys in that scenario to come in on minor league contracts, just because of the roster that we have intact.”
>>> The Nationals agreed to terms with right-hander Michael Crotta, 28, on a minor league deal. He missed the past two years because of elbow issues but hit 96 mph in a recent tryout. He mainly has been a starter in the minor leagues and punched up a 9.28 ERA in 10 2/3 innings as a reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011. He has a career 4.63 ERA in six minor league seasons.
Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.