Nationals designate Yunesky Maya for assignment, call up Jeff Kobernus

Jeff Chiu/AP

Yunesky Maya’s time with the Nationals may be ending. (Jeff Chiu/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In order to make room on the 40-man roster for the call-up of infielder Jeff Kobernus from Class AAA Syracuse, the Nationals will designate right-handed pitcher Yunesky Maya for assignment, Manager Davey Johnson said following Friday’s game. Kobernus will serve as insurance while Danny Espinosa rests his injured wrist.

Kobernus, the speedy utility man whose natural position is second base, has been called up from Class AAA Syracuse and is expected to join the Nationals on Saturday. The move essentially cut ties, for now, with Maya, one of the Nationals’ most disappointing recent signings.

The Nationals didn’t have any open spots on the 40-man roster for Kobernus. And once tests results on Friday afternoon showed that Espinosa has been playing with a fractured right wrist since he was hit by a pitch on April 14, Johnson didn’t want to play with a three-man bench. The Nationals have been employing an eight-man bullpen this week as starter Ross Detwiler dealt with an oblique strain that had him miss his last start.

Steve Lombardozzi will man second base while Espinosa rests over the next few days, a stint that could last longer if Espinosa lands on the DL, which remains a possibility.

Kobernus, 24, has been playing well in Syracuse, hitting .333 in 43 games while playing second, third, center field and left. Kobernus, a 2009 second-round pick from Cal, was a Rule 5 pick returned to the Nationals from the Detroit Tigers late in spring training. The Tigers converted the infielder into an outfielder to take advantage of his speed and the Nationals played him there, too, to increase his versatility. But the Nationals view him as a natural infielder. He has stolen 21 bases in 27 chances this season and nabbed 42 in 53 chances last year.

The Nationals signed Maya to an ill-fated four-year, $6 million contract in 2010, shortly after he defected from Cuba and established residence in the Dominican Republic. At Class AAA Syracuse this year, the 31-year-old starter is 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA in eight starts. Over 367 2/3 minor league innings over four seasons, he has an underwhelming 4.41 ERA. And in 59 major league innings, he has a disappointing 5.80 ERA. This season was the final year remaining on Maya’s contract.

Also on Nationals Journal

Updates on Ross Detwiler, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Ryan Mattheus