Espinosa has started 83 consecutive games and, while he has stayed healthy, the mental grind has been taxing. Second, facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in the past has thrown his swing out of whack for days. Espinosa did not ask out of the lineup, but he did not mind when Johnson told him.
“Honestly, I’m kind of happy I’m getting this day off,” Espinosa said. “I think I do need the mental break at some point. Physically, I felt great. I felt like I was swinging the bat well and I was just very unlucky, in that sense. At the same time, I’m happy I’m missing R.A. Dickey. He’s just one of those guys that throws my timing off for the rest of the series. It does not bother me at all that I’m missing him. Sometimes, you have pitchers that throw your timing off. He’s a guy that does that for me. I’m sort of happy that I’m not facing him.”
Johnson said he hopes to use Espinosa off the bench, which would keep his streak alive. “I don’t want him thinking he’s going to break Ripken’s record or start thinking along those lines,” Johnson said. “But I might get him in there to keep that going.”
It would be an impressive feat. Only eight rookies in baseball history have played all 162 games, and just three have since 1982: Jeff Conine (Marlins, 1993), Hideki Matsui (Yankees, 2003) and Delmon Young (Rays, 2007). Espinosa also played the final seven games of last season, putting his current games played streak at 142.
“I enjoy playing every day,” Espinosa said. “It’s not like it means the world to me. I’m sure at some point, everyone needs a day off. I do enjoy being in every single game. I enjoy playing. I enjoy starting. I enjoy the grind.”