Danny Espinosa told ESPN980 hosts Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro this past January that he felt he was figuring things out at the plate in the second half last season before an injury set him back.
After a rough start to the 2012 campaign, the then-25-year-old switch-hitting infielder put together a good stretch after the All-Star Break in which he had a .293/.344/.482 line, 13 doubles, nine HRs, 12 walks and 68 Ks in 56 games and 241 plate appearances from the middle of July through early September when he injured his left shoulder diving on defense in a game against the Miami Marlins.
Washington's second baseman had a .171/.247/.271 line with four doubles, one home run, seven walks and 26 Ks in 22 games and 77 PAs over the last three weeks of the season and he then went 1 for 15 with seven Ks in the postseason.
"Last year I started to swing the bat better about halfway through the season," Espinosa explained in the ESPN980 interview, "until I got injured and found out that I had torn my rotator cuff in my left shoulder. That really set me back that last month when I was doing well." Espinosa made a decision early in the offseason to build strength in his shoulder and play with the injury rather than have surgery.
"'It's already torn,'" Espinosa told reporters including CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman. "'So as long as I just keep up with my maintenance on my other muscles around the shoulder, I should be fine.'"
In part because his defense didn't suffer and in part due to his value as a backup shortstop, the Nationals stuck with Espinosa through May before sending him to the DL and then Triple-A Syracuse to find a more consistent approach at the plate. Espinosa had a .158/.193/.272 line, nine doubles and three home runs in 44 games and 167 plate appearances with the Nationals. In his first 19 games with the the Nats' top affiliate, he was 6-for-64 with 33 strikeouts.
Whether it's an issue with the shoulder, the fractured wrist he suffered on a HBP this season or the thumb injury his agent disclosed in a discussion with reporters yesterday, things haven't clicked for Espinosa in Triple-A either. After 70 games and 292 PAs with the Chiefs, the now-26-year-old infielder has a .208/.271/.283 line with 12 doubles, two home runs, 18 walks and 97 Ks. When Nats' skipper Davey Johnson was asked last week about the possibility of Espinosa being called up in September, he explained that he wasn't sure, since callups are a kind of reward.
"There have been discussions on that," Johnson told reporters when asked specifically about Espinosa. "Right now, we're trying to get him back on track. And it's also a reward system when you get called back up. It's a reward on how you did down there. And he's not doing the things I know he's capable of doing. But there's still a little time left. We'll just have to wait and see."
MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported yesterday that the Nationals were still trying to trade Espinosa and a "baseball source" told him they believed the Nats' opening day shortstop would, "... not play another big league game this year." The decision on callups, Mr. Ladson wrote, was between Espinosa and shortstop Zack Walters, who's shown some pop but struggled defensively at Triple-A. Espinosa's agent, Scott Boras, told Mr. Ladson and other reporters yesterday that other teams consistently asked about the Nationals' '08 3rd Round pick:
"'Every park that I go into will ask me about Danny. They want to know what he is doing. So the guy has real value. The thing he has to go through is get an approach that will help him become very consistent [at the plate].'"
Rosters expand on Sunday. The Nationals, according to the MLB.com beat writer, expect to make the decision on which players they will call up soon, but they haven't decided what to do with Espinosa yet.
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