Ryan Zimmerman takes the cautious route, Danny Espinosa gets an unwanted benching

(Robb Carr / Getty Images)

(Robb Carr / Getty Images)

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is out of tonight’s lineup with tightness in his hamstring while second baseman Danny Espinosa remains benched for the fourth straight game with swelling in his right hand and wrist.

Zimmerman suffered a cramp in his left hamstring last weekend against the Braves. He played with a heating pad affixed to his leg for several games, but he mildly re-aggravated Wednesday night in Miami while he cut across the infield to field a chopper and made a throw across his body.

Zimmerman left Wednesday’s game in the eighth inning. Today at Citi Field, he went through pregame running and throwing under the watch of a trainer. He felt like he could have played, but he, Manager Davey Johnson and team medical personnel decided caution would be most prudent.

“There’s no reason to go out there today and miss two weeks instead of two days,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve dealt with hamstring stuff before. This feels way, way better. Usually, when you have hamstring stuff, you can’t stretch it, you’re tight. All my flexibility and all that stuff is still the same. It’s just literally the one spot where I had the cramp.”

Zimmerman said he expects to play tomorrow and could even pinch-hit tonight. Johnson agreed.

“He’s still having a little problem with it,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a cool night. I figured if I played him tonight, I’d be taking a chance. Let’s just try to nip it in the bud on him.”

Espinosa expected to play tonight after the swelling in his hand, a result of a Paul Maholm fastball hitting it last Sunday, went down. He took early batting practice and felt “no pain,” he said.

Espinosa said Johnson told him he would be in the lineup so long as he could take a full batting practice and field grounders without issue.  Johnson, though, wanted to watch him take the full workout before he allowed him to play the next day.

“He told me he’s ready,” Johnson said. “But he hasn’t passed my test yet.”

Espinosa missed only four games last season, and since his 2011 rookie season he has played in 318 of a possible 324 games. “He’s an iron man,” Johnson said. The news that he would not play tonight seemed to upset Espinosa, who described watching from the dugout as “terrible.”

“The day is boring, because I couldn’t hit, I couldn’t take groundballs, I couldn’t do anything,” Espinosa said. “I just sat in the training room from 2 to 7. I was getting bored. It’s like going to work and just having to sit there.”

Espinosa did admit he may not be back to a full 100 percent, even though he feels he is able to play.

“It’s going to painful for a while, to touch,” Espinosa said. “It’s a bone bruise, and it’s right on the skin. There’s just no meat around it. But as far as the movement, all the swelling has got out of my wrist the last couple days. My hand strength and my wrist, it feels a lot better.”

The injuries to Zimmerman and Espinosa allow Johnson to give Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi in their place. Johnson has had difficulty using all of his bench players because of the Nationals’ established lineup. In Espinosa’s place this weekend against the Marlins, Lombardozzi went 6 for 14 with two doubles.

“It takes 25 to win,” Johnson said. “It’s tough with a young bench and a young lineup that doesn’t” want to take days off.

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