After sitting out the last five games, second baseman Danny Espinosa faced a choice. He could rest for the next three weeks or so and allow the fracture in his right wrist to fully heal. Or he could return tonight and play through pain, allowing the bone chip to heal slowly, leaving him at less than 100 percent.
For Espinosa, the decision was easy.
“I don’t have three weeks to sit,” Espinosa said.
And so, Espinosa will return tonight, back at second base. Team doctors cleared Espinosa after his rest allowed the swelling and inflammation settle in his wrist. The fracture remains in a “healing period,” Espinosa said, but he is content to let the process take place as he plays.
“I thought if it was another week that would have been real productive, I probably would have taken one week,” Espinosa said. “But it’s not going to be one week. It’s going to be a good amount of time to get it recovered. I feel better. I don’t have the amount of pain I had.”
Espinosa, of course, is still playing through the tear in his left rotator cuff he has played with all season. Both he and the Nationals have insisted the shoulder tear has not affected his play. Espinosa refused to use either injury as an excuse, but it stands to reason he has been compromised. He enters tonight hitting .163/.196/.291 with 40 strikeouts.
“It feels good,” Espinosa said of his wrist. “It’s not going to be 100 percent. But there are plenty of guys that play with injuries that aren’t 100 percent.
“It’ll heal. It’ll just take a little longer. If I didn’t play, it was going to be a while. I just need to tolerate it.”
With Espinosa back in the lineup, Steve Lombardozzi will return to the bench. By offensive numbers, Lombardozzi had out-performed Espinosa at second base. He has hit .234/.254/.306 on the season. In the five consecutive games he filled in for Espinosa, Lombardozzi went 6 for 20 with two doubles and no walks.
Manager Davey Johnson planned to address the benching with Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi has been compliant, but he has also wanted to compete for the second base job since spring training.
“He doesn’t understand, and yes, I probably need to talk to him,” Johnson said. “He knows I think a great deal about him. He’s always been a big part of the success here.
“This is also about 25 guys that I’ve got to get going. Lombo is playing really good right now. Espinosa is very capable, and I need to get him going. The injury to [Bryce] Harper and [Jayson] Werth has given an opportunity to a couple guys who have been slow getting going. Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina seem to be hitting their stride. You gotta have 25 guys. You don’t win with 10 or 15 guys. You don’t win a pennant that way.”
As for Werth, he played three innings in a rehab assignment at Class A Potomac and went 1 for 2 with a single.. Johnson is still certain when Werth, who last played May 2, will return to the Nationals.
“You gotta ask Werth,” Johnson said. “I just hope he gets through the day all right. He’s really been moving around well in the outfield. He’s taking a whole bunch of BP. He’s in good spirits. When he takes that first step out of the batter’s box, that’s when it usually bothers him. I just told him to take it easy doing that today.”
Johnson said it’s possible Werth comes back Friday night in Atlanta.
“Stay tuned to Jayson Werth,” Johnson said. “If he has a pretty good day today and maybe tomorrow, we may see him in Atlanta.”