As the expected favorites to win the NL East pennant next season, this probably wasn’t the news that Washington Nationals fans wanted to hear this off-season: Danny Espinosa, the team’s starting second baseman, has been rehabbing a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder, and is looking to play through the injury next year.
The 25-year old is coming off his second full season with the Nationals, and nearly recorded a 20-20 season on offense, coming just three home runs short of the feat. Still, it was the middle infielder’s best defensive season so far, and the 3.8 fWAR year pushes Espinosa towards the top five second baseman territory – not just in the NL, but across the league.
That’s impressive as is, but perhaps more so when considering that he played through September and the playoffs with an injury to his shoulder that would normally require surgery. In his own words to Bill Ladson of MLB.com:
“”My strikeouts went way up [the last month]. I couldn’t hit left-handed, I couldn’t hit right-handed. It was just disappointing to me.”
Espinosa is on about the strikeouts, as he whiffed at an alarming 31.9% rate in the final month of the season. As for not being able to hit? Well, perhaps he’s just being a little too hard on himself. Though he only hit .243 over September and October, he didn’t exactly what a total power outage (three homers in 113 PA), and his .718 OPS wasn’t what you’d call a total loss.
The playoffs, on the other hand, was a different story, as Espinosa managed just one hit over 15 at-bats.
According to Espinosa, he was properly diagnosed about his injury after the season ended, and did not swing a bat until 2013 arrived. So what does he plan on doing about his injury for 2013? Play through it, apparently.
Yes, his rotator cuff will still be torn when Spring Training starts for the Nationals, but Espinosa has been rehabbing “everything around it”, and is hopeful that the injury will not get worse through the season. It was either that, or go through surgery that would have seen him miss a couple of months of action.
The Nationals are no strangers to having its players succeeding in spite of injuries (Ian Desmond played through an oblique injury through much of the season before finally succumbing to the DL), but Espinosa seems to be hoping for a lot here. If the injury had truly caused him not to be able to hit in the post-season, playing with it in 2013 isn’t necessarily going to help the team.
I would imagine that the Nationals, who have the World Series in their sights, would rather have a healthy Espinosa for four months, rather than one who might be bothered by a torn rotator cuff all season. If he’s ineffective out of the gate, how much will that be owed to the injury?
Fortunately, the team has a more-than-capable backup plan in Steve Lombardozzi, who could be in line to see an expanded role in 2013.
Unless, of course, Espinosa is actually able to play the full year without needing time off. Seems like a tall order, even with cortisone shots and all.