Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters before Friday night's game with the Philadelphia Phillies that the team had received some bad news about second baseman Danny Espinosa's wrist. Espinosa originally injured the wrist when he was hit by a pitch from Atlanta Braves' lefty Paul Maholm in a mid-April game in the nation's capital. When pain in the wrist continued to bother the switch-hitting infielder, the 26-year-old Espinosa saw a specialist in the Baltimore area who diagnosed a small fracture in the wrist and located a bone chip that was causing irritation.
"I looked at the films," Johnson told reporters, "and [Espinosa] has a little chip floating around in his wrist. The report I got from the trainers is if he can stand the pain it shouldn't get any worse." The plan is to let Espinosa rest and see if the discomfort goes away. The '08 3rd Round pick is already dealing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. Since he figured to be out for at least a few days, Johnson explained, the Nationals had to make a move.
"We're going to make a roster change," Johnson announced after the Nats' 5-2 win over the Phillies. "[Assistant GM Bryan Minniti] isn't here, but I think we're doing something with [Yunesky] Maya and [we're] calling up [Jeff] Kobernus. We're already one player short with just four men on the bench. I like to have at least five and with Espinosa down for a number of days, we can't go with three."
Kobernus, 24, has moved up a level in the Nats' system in each of the five seasons since the Nationals selected him with the first pick of the second round of the 2009 Draft.
Last season at Double-A Harrisburg, the San Leandro, California-born, Cal State Berkeley-educated right-handed hitting and throwing infielder/outfielder had a .282/.325/.333 line over 82 games and 366 plate appearances in which he hit ten doubles, two triples and a home run while dealing with a thumb injury. The Detroit Tigers were impressed enough with Kobernus that they selected him in this past winter's Rule 5 Draft, but returned him to the Nationals when he didn't make their Opening Day roster. In 43 games and 193 PAs with the Nationals' top affiliate this season before he was called up last night, Kobernus had a .333/.378/.420 with eight doubles, two triples and one home run.
Can he help out the Nats' offense? They could use the help. The Nationals' offense produced 10 hits and five runs last night in the nation's capital, but that was a rare offensive display for a team that's been at the bottom in team average, on base percentage and slugging in the National League early this season. Steve Lombardozzi, filling in at second for Espinosa, was 3 for 4 with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth last night. Tyler Moore got a start in left and went 1 for 3 in the win. Davey Johnson talked about his team's offensive issues with reporters after last night's game.
"We haven't been getting -- early on, we got, we scored on passed ball, ground balls, or short fly balls," Johnson said. "We haven't been getting base hits. We got the first base hit I think in San Francisco with a runner on second and two outs, we drove a guy in, [Ian] Desmond did, but to see us do that... the big hit of course, Lombo, but we haven't seen much of that all year."
"Our offense has really been down," Johnson continued, "About 25% of our lineup has really been struggling, along with some other guys at times, so seeing Lombo come in there and get three hits and drive in some runs, that was huge."
"We just haven't been the kind of offensive club I know we're capable of being," Johnson said, "And today was a big day with Espinosa out for Lombo to do what he did and us to score five runs, we've been kind of stuck on none, or one or two. So that was big, a big shot in the arm for the offense." The injury to Espinosa and the absence of the likes of Jayson Werth has given the Nationals' manager the chance to get some of his struggling bench bats like Lombardozzi and Moore more at bats.
"It's important," the manager said, "I'm going to stay with Tyler Moore. I want to give him some more... I mean he's not been swinging the bat at all like he's capable of swinging. And hopefully he'll get right and you've got the pitcher in the lineup, but you can't have a couple other spots in the lineup. You just kill your offense and certainly we have the talent to do it, they've just got to do it, it's that simple."
Lombardozzi and Moore will get their chances and now the Nationals have, in Kobernus, a healthy bench option should they need one while Danny Espinosa sits with the injured wrist.