Toni L. Sandys/TWP Toni L. Sandys/TWP

The moment the Nationals‘ charter plane took off from Washington en route to Miami on Sunday night, hours after Braves pitcher Paul Maholm plunked Danny Espinosa on the back of his right hand and wrist, the pain worsened. “I could feel my fingers and everything just swelling up,” he said, seated at his locker on Monday in Miami.

Espinosa, the Nationals’ stalwart second baseman who rarely takes a day off, wasn’t in Monday’s lineup despite his hopes to return as soon as possible.

Instead, he will run back and forth between the locker room and dugout during the opening game of the series against the Miami Marlins to receive treatment on his throwing hand and wrist while watching his teammates play. X-rays during the game on Sunday were negative and all Espinosa can do is rest, ice the sore areas and maybe soon take some anti-inflammatory medicine.

“Pain-wise, it’s the same to the touch,” he said. “The swelling has increased so much that everything has got extremely stiff. The bruising is starting to settle in the back and all over my forearm and in my hand. The grip strength on my two fingers is a little weak, not weak, it’s stiff. It’s really stiff. It’s sore but I would say that the swelling is what’s making it hurt so bad.”

If his condition improves, Espinosa hopes to return to the lineup on Wednesday, the series  finale in Miami. If not, he will use Thursday’s day off as another day of rest and return on Friday against the Mets in New York. On Monday, he had a dark bruise on the outside portion of his wrist with some visible swelling. “But I’m really hoping Wednesday, take the next two days and Wednesday is my goal,” he said.

In the second inning of Sunday’s game, left-hander Maholm plunked Espinosa on the right wrist with an 88-mph fastball. He instantly dropped the bat, shook his hand and slowly walked to first base. He stayed in the game, his wrist beet red, but left in the fourth inning and Steve Lombardozzi took his place. Lombardozzi, a natural second baseman, will start for Espinosa on Monday.

It’s unusual for Espinosa to sit on the bench, let alone because of injury. He has played 318 of 324 games the past two seasons, including 160 of 162 games last season, when he had a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

“He’s a tough kid,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He played another inning and made a couple plays and threw the ball. But bad contusions like that can, a lot of times there’s a lot of bleeding. Hopefully he’ll be back soon.”