(J Pat Carter/AP)

“You got to be smart,” Desmond said. “It’s obviously a team sport. As bad as I want to play, it’s probably not best for the team today.”

Desmond did not commit to playing tomorrow, but Johnson said if Desmond continues to improve he should be back tomorrow, when the Nationals open a series at Nationals Park against the Mets. Before he missed yesterday’s game, Desmond, who leads the Nationals in hitting, home runs and slugging, had played every inning of the previous 71 games.

“I don’t want to take a chance,” Johnson said. “He’s too valuable to the ball club to go out there and do something spectacular and hurt himself. So, hopefully we’ll get by the danger period with another day off.”

“We’ve got a real good-looking masseuse in there, and she’s been working on him,” Johnson added.

Desmond pulled out of the All-Star Game in order to rest the oblique, but he only missed time after the four days of rest. Johnson wondered if the time off may have caused the injury to over-heal, and Desmond playing indoors, when the summer heat can’t help loosen up the muscle, may have contributed to make it more sore over the previous two days.

“The human body is kind of funky sometimes,” Desmond said. “You can’t really go back. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

With Desmond out again, Danny Espinosa will remain at shortstop for at least another day. Espinosa played shortstop in college and throughout his minor league career. He clearly has the arm strength and range to play the position in the majors, too. Yesterday, he played his first major league game at short, and it felt different.

“It’s just the reads – the reads off the bat, the reads off the swings,” Espinosa said. “Being at second base is just different. You have a different feeling than you do at shortstop. Just getting over there and seeing what guys can and can’t do off pitches, how their swing path is, it’s just a totally different thing.”

Espinosa also assumed the burden of being a shortstop. He helped position teammates, made calls on how to defend certain situations and made a mound visit to settle the pitcher. He missed that part of the position.

“I love it,” Espinosa said. “The responsibility, all of that is awesome. I enjoy the responsibility of being a shortstop. I was telling Ian that last night, actually. When you play second base, you forget how much, at shortstop, you’re constantly thinking. You’re the quarterback of the defense. You think so much more at short.”

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