Danny Espinosa has been playing with a fractured right wrist since he was hit by a pitch April 14, a discomfort that lingered and never subsided. Espinosa, 26, will rest for two or three days and receive treatment, hoping to alleviate the swelling and pain with the hope that he can avoid the 15-day disabled list. The Nationals will likely call up infielder Jeff Kobernus, who was out of the lineup for Class AAA Syracuse on Friday night, before Saturday’s game.
The Nationals learned the extent of Espinosa’s issues after he saw Baltimore-based hand specialist Ken Means on Friday morning. Espinosa was hit with a fastball from Paul Maholm in the second inning of a 9-0 loss to the Braves five weeks ago. He left the game and missed the next four games. The original x-rays came back negative, but the results may have been obscured by the initial swelling.
Espinosa continued to play but the pain in his wrist never improved or worsened. Espinosa asked for another look at his wrist. Test results showed that Espinosa had a bone chip floating around in his wrist. The bigger concern, however, was the fractured bone.
“It’s not that it’s getting any worse,” he said. “I knew after the first four or five days I sat that I was going to have to deal with some discomfort. But every player, you’re going to deal with some discomfort through games. I was thinking after a couple weeks some of it would start to go away. And before we went on the California trip, I said when we get home, I want to get it checked out again. It’s not getting worse, but by no means has it gotten any better. So I wanted to get it checked out.”
Espinosa will do nothing with his wrist or hand for the next two or three days, hoping that the rest calm the pain and inflammation. If that works, Espinosa could play with the lingering bone chip and fracture. If not, Espinosa could be facing a longer shutdown to allow the injury to heal
“He complained in San Francisco that it bothered him to actually hit right handed,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. “I imagine because that’s the dominant hand in hitting. He’s using that more and that’s the discomfort but I’m hopefully that by rest, the bone is trying to knit and repair itself. If we back off, we can get past it. So that’s the plan right now. It may take longer than that to get by it, and if that’s the case, I’d also like to get another opinion.”
Surgery to remove the bone fragments could be a possibility at the end of the season but Espinosa said it wasn’t a consideration now. “The doctor said that’s not what’s causing the issue,” he said. “It’s the main bone where the fragments came off, that’s what’s causing all the discomfort and inflammation.”
Added Johnson: “When they talk about going in there and taking the chip out, the doctor said he’d also like to look further and see how the main bone is doing. But if I do that it’d take longer. There’s not really a lot of choices. The doctor didn’t really come up with anything other than, if he can stand it, it shouldn’t get any worse.”
Espinosa has been struggling through a vicious slump this season, batting just .163 with three home runs and 12 RBI with a paltry .196 on-base percentage through 39 games and 141 at-bats. In the meantime, he will be replaced in the lineup by Steve Lombardozzi.
Espinosa said batting left-handed, his right wrist felt stiff. “I thought it was nothing wrong, just the stiffness that I’ve got to deal with for a couple weeks and it would eventually go away,” he said. “But it just hasn’t.”
Espinosa, who is already playing with a torn left rotator cuff, has displayed a high pain tolerance. He refused to concede that his wrist was part of the reasons for his offensive struggles. “He’s a trooper,” Johnson said.
“I won’t ever use this as an excuse for what has happened with my hitting,” Espinosa said. “I haven’t hit lately and that’s just kind of what it is. I’ll continue to work to get my hitting back to where I want it to be, but I won’t use my wrist as an excuse for me not playing up to par.”
The Nationals were planning to wait on results from Ross Detwiler’s bullpen session Saturday before making a roster move, but Espinosa’s injury changed that plan. Detwiler has been dealing with a slight oblique strain and missed his last start, and Johnson said the final hurdle would be Saturday. But even Friday, Johnson and the Nationals front office were discussing what roster move to make. Johnson said the Nationals would send down a reliever from the eight-man bullpen to make room for another position player.
Yunesky Maya, called up this week, seems like a likely candidate to return to Syracuse. Kobernus is hitting .333 for Syracuse and is a natural second baseman. The Nationals would have to create a spot on the 40-man roster and moving Christian Garcia or Ryan Mattheus to the 60-day disabled list could be options. The Nationals are high on Anthony Rendon but believe he isn’t ready to play second base in the majors. He has played there only five times at Class AA Harrisburg this season.