Second baseman Danny Espinosa had started 149 of the Nationals’ first 154 games, and he felt perfectly healthy. So he had no reason to expect his name would be left out of the lineup tonight. When asked why it was, he redirected the question to Manager Davey Johnson.
“Go ask him the reasoning,” Espinosa said. “I’d like to know, too.”
Johnson understood Espinosa’s irritation, but he delivered a direct answer. He thought he had seen Espinosa swinging too hard lately and wanted to give him rest. Johnson said Espinosa’s history against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick (it’s not that bad – 3 for 16 with three walks and four strikeouts) also factored into the decision to play Steve Lombardozzi at second base.
“I think he’s been pressing a little bit lately,” Johnson said. “He’s been swinging awfully hard. Let him sit back and relax a little bit.”
Espinosa received a cortisone shot in his left (non-throwing) shoulder Sept. 17 in order to relieve pain caused by a bone bruise in the capsule. Espinosa said he’s “100 percent” and Johnson said the day off is not related to Espinosa’s health.
“It has nothing to do with that,” Johnson said. “I just felt like he was over-swinging.”
Johnson indicated yesterday he wasn’t planning on giving any starters rest until the Nationals clinched. And it is a little hard to figure what kind of pressing Johnson has seen. Since the cortisone shot, Espinosa has hit .348/.444/.478 in 27 plate appearances. He went 0 for 4 with a walk last night, and Monday he knocked three hits, including a double.
All of that being the case, Johnson figured Espinosa may take offense to the night off. “Probably,” Johnson said. “That’s, what, the second game all year he’s missed? It’s not going to kill him.
“I know he’s an intense competitor. I’m sure he thinks I’m an idiot. Maybe I am.”
The other half of the day off matters, too. As Johnson has used a rubber-stamp, everyday lineup down the stretch, he has worried about bench players getting rusty. “One of the guys I’ve slighted the most has been Lombo,” Johnson said.
Lombardozzi, once an everyday player because of various injuries, has started only four games in September.
“He’s been a mainstay on this club, too,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to completely shut him down.”