As Danny Espinosa rehabs, Anthony Rendon hits

brushback_harperDanny Espinosa began his rehab assignment at Class AAA Syracuse on Thursday. After undergoing MRI exams on his wrist and shoulder, he received a cortisone shot in the fractured right wrist he played with for six weeks. He’s now landed on the disabled list for about 10 days of rest, and the Nationals believe Espinosa is on his way toward getting healthy.

In the meantime, his replacement, Anthony Rendon has been the Nationals most productive hitter since he second call-up on the same day Espinosa landed on the disabled list. Rendon is hitting .410 with three walks in that span of ten games, including a memorable career first home run to win a game in Cleveland. In all, Rendon is hitting .343 with eight walks in 18 major league games. He may not play second as well as Epinosa, but he has held his own and is learning. What does this all mean for Espinosa, who hit .158 with four walks in 44 games?

After being ramped up three innings at a time, Espinosa played his first full game at Syracuse on Sunday and went 0 for 4 with a walk and two strikeouts. He played six innings of Monday and went 0 for 2 with a walk, run and two strikeouts, bringing his five-game total to .154 (2 for 13) with three walks. According to Manager Davey Johnson, Espinosa said his wrist felt fine after Sunday’s game. The Nationals have been more concerned about his wrist than his torn left rotator cuff, which Espinosa worked hard this offseason to rehab and a recent MRI showed no new damage. Part of the process of putting Espinosa back together is not only getting him fully healthy again but fixing his woeful hitting. He may feel better but his performance hasn’t been yet.

Even when the Nationals placed Espinosa on the disabled list with a hurt wrist, General Manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals hope to have Espinosa back this season. “He’s going to be a guy we need,” Rizzo said on June 4. “He’s going to be a guy that we’re going to count on some time this year.”

Rizzo said then that the Nationals wanted Espinosa to get healthier and find his footing against as a hitter (“get his rhythm back as a hitter, mechanically and mentally.”) He admitted Espinosa could land in the minors when he is ready to return, but that decision hadn’t yet been made. A position player’s rehab assignment can last 20 days. But based on the way the Nationals are talking and how Rendon is playing, that minor league stint is becoming a real possibility.

“Now that Danny is healthy he needs to go ahead and show what he is capable of doing,: Johnson said on Monday in Philadelphia. “He certainly has the talent to do it. What Rendon is doing doesn’t have any bearing on what he is doing. He needs to get comfortable on both sides of the dish and do the things he is capable of doing. I know he is handling it defensively. Is he in a good frame of mind? Is he getting in a good groove left and right? And not worry about anything other than that.”

Asked flatly if he thought Espinosa would be back at second base in the majors this season, Johnson spoke positively — but couched his feelings.

“I don’t think there’s a better defensive second baseman in the league than Danny Espinosa,” Johnson said. “But the one thing we want is Danny to be comfortable on both sides of the dish. And when he does that, he could be all-star. It’s that simple.”

FROM THE POST

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NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 5, Charlotte 4: Ryan Tatusko allowed three runs, one earned, over 5 1/3 innings. Xavier Cedeno pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning and allowed a hit and struck out two. Danny Espinosa played six innings, went 0 for 2, drew a walk, scored a run and struck out twice. Zach Walters, named the International League player of the week, went 2 for 5. Mike Constanzo was hit by a pitch and Carlos Rivero hit a sacrifice fly to score the winning runs.

Harrisburg was off. Taylor Jordan was named the Eastern League pitcher of the week.

Potomac was off.

Hagerstown was off.

Auburn 7, Batavia 3: In the season opener, Kylin Turnbull allowed only two hits and struck out three over five innings. Cody Dent went 2 for 3 with two runs. Jordan Poole and Narciso Mesa each drove in a run.

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