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Span and Escobar go down again

Jul 6, 2015, 11:41 PM EDT

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It has become an all-too-familiar scene for the Nationals, a player leaving a game early with an apparent injury. And when it happened twice on Monday night, to two of the club’s most-important and most-productive veterans, it could only leave everyone in the organization hoping neither Denard Span nor Yunel Escobar was seriously hurt.

The initial indications were that both players avoided any major injuries. Span departed in the third inning after a recurrence of the back spasms that have plagued him over the last month, while Escobar left in the fifth inning with tightness in his left hamstring (a new ailment).

Manager Matt Williams wouldn’t offer much of a prognosis for either player moving forward.

“It’s too early to speculate,” Williams said.

This much is certain: The Nationals sorely missed both Span and Escobar during Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Reds. They managed only five total hits in the game, two of which came via those two injured veterans atop their lineup.

Escobar and Span entered the day as the NL’s sixth- and eighth-ranked hitters, sporting .314 and .305 batting averages, respectively. Their absences, along with the injuries that already landed Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth on the disabled list, left the Nationals a fraction of their true selves for most of Monday’s game.

Those remaining healthy players are trying not to use the injuries as an excuse for anything.

“There’s been a few hiccups this year with injuries, and that’s always demoralizing,” said right-hander Doug Fister, who spent a month on the DL himself with forearm tightness. “But it’s been, I don’t want to say good for the guys stepping in and filling in roles. But we’re playing OK baseball. We’re playing together and making things work. We’re without some of our top guys. But you know what? Guys are going in there and playing hard, and that’s what we need to do. Unfortunately we didn’t have Denard and Yuni tonight. Hopefully they’re back tomorrow. I’m not sure what any cases are, but we want them healthy and ready.”

It wasn’t clear immediately whether Span or Escobar would be available for Tuesday night’s game, but if the events of recent weeks are any indication, Span would be more likely to return to play than Escobar.

Span (who left the clubhouse before reporters were let in following Monday’s loss) has been dealing with back spasms since June 7, when he first departed a game feeling discomfort. In the month since, he has either been out of the lineup or pulled early due to back problems, on seven separate occasions.

The Nationals have yet to find a solution to the recurring problem.

“We’ve changed programs,” Williams said. “He’s strengthening, he’s stretching, the trainers are doing everything they can possibly do. We’ll continue to monitor, continue to do what we’re doing. Some days it’s great, some days it just pops up on him.”

Escobar, meanwhile, has suffered five minor injuries so far this season, each time missing either one or two games, but never more. The veteran infielder declined to speak to reporters through a team spokesperson, but a source who spoke to him said he expects to miss “a couple days.”

Williams said Escobar hurt himself running out an infield single in the bottom of the third. He remained in the game two more innings before being lifted for pinch-hitter Dan Uggla in the fifth.

With the season now past the midway point, only two members of the Nationals’ projected Opening Day lineup haven’t been forced to miss at least one game due to injury: Shortstop Ian Desmond and catcher Wilson Ramos. Despite that, the Nats entered play Monday 10 games over the .500 mark, holding a season-high 4 1/2-game lead in the NL East.

“It’s a testament to all 25 guys out there,” said reliever Casey Janssen, who missed two games with shoulder inflammation. “We’re playing pretty good despite all the injuries. Unfortunate situations that we put ourselves into, but it says a lot about the guys in this locker room picking each other up. For the most part, we’ve been in every game. So that’s a pretty good sign.”

  1. whatsanattau - Jul 6, 2015 at 11:51 PM

    Another reason that a July deadline trade will require the Nats to trade a prospect … Most teams want a healthy player in return. All four free agents to be are either essential to pursuing the championship, injured, or needed because others are injured. Desmond can’t be traded while the rest of the starting infield is on the DL.

    • Karl Kolchak - Jul 7, 2015 at 12:09 AM

      Desmond COULD be traded in a deal that includes another infielder. The reason he likely will NOT be traded is his $10 million salary. The way he is playing, no team is going to give the Nats anything more than the proverbial bag of baseballs for Desmond unless the Nats agree to pay all or most of his remaining salary–as the Indians did with Asdrubal Cabrera last year.

      • National Anthem - Jul 7, 2015 at 12:31 AM

        So I have a question (because I don’t know what the parameters are): if Desmond continues to underperform, will we actually get a draft pick when he hits free agency? I mean, isn’t a compensatory pick based on performance?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 6:45 AM

        Anthem: Used to be that way, but no more. Under the old system, there were levels (Type A, B, etc.). Since the new CBA, starting in 2013, a team can make a Qualifying Offer to any free agent. For an offer to qualify, it has to be at least equal to the average of the 125 richest contracts. This next off-season, that will be around $16MM for one year. The player can take it or leave it. If the player opts not to take the offer, the team that signs him loses a first-round draft pick (second round if their pick is in the top 15). The old team does not get that pick; that pick dies and goes to Baseball Draft Pick Heaven. The old team gets a Compensation Pick, in a round between rounds one and two. UNLESS: a player is traded during the final season of his contract, his new team gets no draft pick.

        So they can offer whatever they want, but the player might take it. That’s the limiting factor.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:08 AM

        Clarifying: They can offer the amount to whomever they want.

      • laddieblahblah - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:01 AM

        “This next off-season, that will be around $16MM for one year. The player can take it or leave it.”

        There’s the rub. Desmond is not going to get $16 mn next year from any GM of sound mind, and there is nothing wrong with Rizzo’s head. Their best choice is to just let him walk, rather than be saddled with a sub-replacement guy who they would be paying $16 mn for stinking up the stadium.

        Rizzo could find much better use for that $16 mn, rather than just throwing it away.

      • Guapo - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        Here is your Ian Desmond stat of the day.

        For 2015 Desmond’s Offensive WAR is 0.1, and his Defensive WAR is -0.1, making his effective WAR an even 0.0 and meaning the only difference between Desmond and a readily available, average minor league SS is about $10,900,00.00 in salary.

      • bowdenball - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        Desmond will get a qualifying offer, and there is very little chance that he’ll accept it. Someone will take a chance on him. He isn’t 34, this isn’t an age-related decline he’s experiencing. He’s a player who has the ability to be one of the best shortstops in the game but has some work to do with his mechanics and what’s between his ears to get back there. In that sense he’s sort of like an elite prospect, except that he’s done it before. No prospect is worth nine figures on the open market, but a prospect that has the potential to be a silver slugger SS, as Desmond does, is worth well more than $16 million and a mid to late first round draft pick.

      • zmunchkin - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:05 AM

        bowdenball is right. In the last two years no player has accepted a QO. And I don’t think any player has accepted a QO since the new rule kicked in.

        Players/agents assume that someone will make them an offer that is as good, if not better than the QO.

        Unless Desi goes downhill from where he is now, Rizzo is almost certain to offer him a QO.

      • Karl Kolchak - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        “Not an age related decline”

        I’m not so sure about that. Asdrubal Cabrera has definitely undergone an age related decline, and he is a year younger than Desmond. Cabrera’s career WAR going into this season was around 7.0 HIGHER than Desmond’s right now. The Indians didn’t even consider making him a QO last year, even though he would have been a top SS in free agency just a year or so earlier.

        The Nats are unlikely to risk having to pay Desmond $16 million next year. Instead, my guess is he will get a deal similar to the 1 yr/$7 million Cabrera got and will try to rebuild his value next season.

      • Karl Kolchak - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:22 AM

        For got to add that Desmond will be signing somewhere else, obviously.

      • bowdenball - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:41 AM

        The difference between an Ian Desmond and, say, an Asdrubal Cabrera is that Desmond has three straight seasons as one of the best shortstops in baseball.

        Formerly very good players endure terrible seasons and then bounce back all the time. Take a look at 2014 Jason Kipnis or Josh Reddick, or 2013 Albert Pujols, or even our own Jayson Werth in 2011.

        Would I want to bet $100 million on it happening with Desmond? Probably not. But $50 million? I think teams would line up to roll the dice on him at that price.

      • zmunchkin - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:47 AM

        Before you quote statistics, especially the more advanced ones like WAR, you might want to understand how they are calculated. Personally, I don’t think much of the WAR metric, but if you do want to use it, you need to know that it is a cumulative metric that covers your entire career. And Cabrera’s first year was 2007, and Desmond’s was 2009 – both of them became regulars the following year. So Astrubal has two more years built into his WAR number.

        And Cabrera never won a Silver Slugger award. Desmond has won it three times in a row and he is one of three (or maybe 4) SS who have 3 20-20 years. And there are likely a number of GMs will be glad to take a chance that this is just a off-year for Desmond.

        Another set of metrics to look at are his career splits. His BA, OBP and SLG numbers are 30-50 points higher in July-Sep than they are in Apr-Jun. So there is historical data to suggest that he might heat up a bit.

        I agree he is gone. And he knows he has no future here. That is another reason why he will turn down the QO once Rizzo offers it (assuming that Desi’s number don’t nosedive even more).

  2. natsguy - Jul 7, 2015 at 1:32 AM

    Only if the Nats make him a qualifying offer.

  3. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    That’s the Desmond Dilemma: If he’s playing well, you want to keep him, and if he’s not playing well, you have to keep him because no one will give you anything near the value a compensation round pick for him.

    I have no inside information, obviously, but if FP and others are right to think this extended slump could be because he’s trying too hard to have a good “walk year,” then I think a reasonable GM might well wonder how he might respond to a change of scenery. This is the only organization he’s ever played for. He seems to highly value keeping things the same, and stable.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:04 AM

      Of course, if he’s not playing well, and they make him a qualifying offer anyway, so they get that draft pick, there’s a chance he might take the money for one year, and they have to be prepared for that, too.

      • laddieblahblah - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:24 AM

        If they make him a qualifying offer, Desmond will take it. He is not going to get anywhere close to $16 mn anywhere else. Then Desmond would be blocking either Difo or Turner next year, each of whom went 3 for 5 last night. Why would you pay a sub-replacement player $16 mn when the future of the Nats middle infield belongs to one, or both, of those guys?

        Turner is rapidly coming up to speed in Syracuse, and Difo is finally adjusting to AA pitching. And both of them, put together, will not cost anywhere near $16 mn next year. If Turner keeps progressing at his current pace, we could see him in the bigs even before the September call-ups. He will definitely be here in September, and could be the staring SS as early as next season.

        If you think that is a stretch, so be it. But thinking that Desmond is going to miraculously regain his hitting touch is even more of one.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        If they make Desmond a QO, he is almost certain to decline it. Stipulated that he’s not going to get anywhere close to $16M as an average annual value in a deal – that ship has sailed. But he’s likely to get a deal worth between 3 years/$36M and 4 years/$45-48M. While the AAV would be considerably below the $16M of the QO, the guaranteed money is a lot higher ($16M vs. $36-48M).

        This guarantee math, btw, is why no player has ever accepted a QO. Even putting aside the guaranteed money, after all of Desmond’s talk about the Player’s Union and what past players have done to put him in his current financial situation it’s hard to see him being the first player to accept a QO.

  4. rayvil01 - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    I never would have imagined this during the past winter, but Espi may well be our most indispensable player. He changes infield positions mid-game like it’s nothing. And he’s hitting enough to be fairly solid there. Great development.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:30 AM

      Seriously. If they were ever going to do a Bert Campaneris, he’d be your guy.

      • adcwonk - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:46 AM

        +9

  5. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    Escobar expects to miss “a couple days.”

    So that leaves the bench minus Escobar, maybe Span, the non-starting catcher, and Manny Burriss (who Matt never uses); in other words, Tyler Moore (or Robinson if Moore starts).

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:27 AM

      And if this were the Baltimore series, either Moore or Robinson would be the DH.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:32 AM

      Like the old days, when the skipper had to explain to me why I wasn’t starting, even though we only had nine guys.

  6. mrnat7 - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    As I’ve said before, “get out of those ugly red uniforms”. They don’t represent Washington or change our name to the Washington Red Cross. Red belongs to the Phillies and Reds. Washington colors should be blue which represents George Washington. The blue in our flag means perserverance and we sure stand for that with our injuries. The blue would also be classier.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 7:56 AM

      Red belongs to the Phillies and Reds.

      And Cardinals. And Angels. And Boston’s socks.

    • npb99 - Jul 7, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      That’s a fresh new rant! We need more diverse topics like that.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:06 AM

      The Mets lost Wheeler before the season started for the whole year. That’s going to up their numbers a bit.

      The Nats lost Reed Johnson early and Nate McLouth before the season started. That blows our numbers up a bit also.

      I haven’t studied the page in depth, but does it tell you somewhere the games lost by Starters? Werth, Rendon, the two pitchers when they were out. Those are the numbers that really matter.

      • senators5 - Jul 7, 2015 at 1:21 PM

        Speaking of McLouth, whatever happened to him?

  7. rlndtln - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    We must go to a 4 man rotation and we can then have 11 pitching staff and 14 regulars that will help the injury situation until July 21.We can not be short off the bench with these game time injuries.

  8. stoatva - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    Taylor Jordan seems like a luxury (?) we cannot afford the next week or two. And if MW will not use Burriss under any circumstances, as it appears, get him someone he will, whether it be Difo or Turner or anyone. Well, almost anyone.

    • adcwonk - Jul 7, 2015 at 8:58 AM

      So, seriously, what _is_ the deal with Burriss. Not trying to be snarky here — can someone explain a rationale why he’s up here but won’t get used? (There must be some reason, even if a weak one).

    • nats128 - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM

      That was odd going to Lobaton over Burriss last night.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:09 AM

        Lobaton can hit, at least occasionally. Burris can’t.

    • wearenationals - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:29 AM

      Good time as any to give some farm players a cup of joe with all these injuries. I’d like to see Trea Turner.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:23 AM

        You’ll see Difo before Turner. In addition to the insanity of starting Turner’s service time clock this early, bringing up Turner would require a move on the 40 man roster where Difo would not.

        I’m not sure that you’ll see either immediately, FWIW; I’m just saying that if you see another infielder it’s going to be Difo.

  9. scnatsfan - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    It appears Burriss looks good in promotional shots and that is his function here

  10. #4 - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Burriss is here becuase he can play all three infield positions which allows MW to use Uggla as a PH. It also keeps Difo, Turner etc in the minors getting ABs where they belong.

    Don’t hate on the DC guy.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      I don’t hate — or even dislike — Burriss. But his limitations have been clear for some time, and his 1-for-Spring Training performance — an infield hit, I think — didn’t do anything to alter impressions. Good story, bad bat.

      • #4 - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        I guess the point is… what is a better alternative? Manny can play defense and run.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    I think Escobar should sit for a day or two, at least. If he has to sit for a more extended period I predict the Nats will limp to the All-Star break w/ Burriss as the sole backup IF before making a decision. They can back-date a trip to the DL by, I believe, up to five days so a decision to put either of them on the DL could cost them only ten days in the best of circumstances. I don’t foresee Rendon coming back within that time frame. If someone is going on the DL, I predict the call-up will be Turner, maybe to give Desmond a 3-4 day sit-down. (So far as the OF situation is concern, I’m content w/ den Dekker for the time being — he has hit in his last three appearances if you include the rained-out game.) I’m beginning to feel a bit squirmy about Difo’s long-term prospects, as it has been called to my attention that he has only five BB all season. At a minimum he needs to work consistently on this aspect of his game before advancing in the system.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      They can back-date a trip to the DL by, I believe, up to five days

      They can only backdate it to the last game he was in. They can’t have him on the DL, even retroactively, and also be in a game.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:49 AM

        The point was, if they leave Escobar on the bench, they can wait until after the AS break and back-date him on the DL for up to five days, e.g., until this Saturday or Sunday.

      • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:43 AM

        If they’re going to DL Escobar it will happen before the ASB. Waiting til after the break and then doing it would make no sense at all.

  12. Guapo - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    Still in first in a bad division. Assuming everyone can get healthy at some point, the vets will have very little wear and team on their bodies come Sept/Oct.

  13. Joe Seamhead - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    Trea Turner is not even on the 40 man roster. The kid is an outstanding prospect, but if he was seriously close to being MLB ready Rizzo would make the move to bring him up.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:16 AM

      Nothing would surprise me as we saw with Difo who never got a chance to play the field.

      I think when Burriss is sent down he will have to be a DFA as he doesn’t have options and that opens an immediate spot on the 40 man.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        I guess you never know, and as Trea has been on a fast track, I tend to agree with your statement that nothing would surprise me either.

        Ghost, You have been following Burns’ season. You’d probably enjoy this background piece on him, not to mention the how and why he has become a fiend with swinging at the first pitch:

        http://www.sfchronicle.com/athletics/article/Ex-fullback-dad-keeping-up-to-speed-on-A-s-6369344.php

        His BA when swinging at the first pitch is like nothing that I have ever seen.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:06 AM

        Thanks for that piece on BB. No surprise he didn’t make the All Star team as there are several noteable snubs.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:17 AM

        As of right now he is just short of the needed AB/PA’s to qualify for the leaders boards, but he has a higher BA than any outfielder in the AL who has played in over 40 games.

  14. jd - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    Given the current state of injuries there is no chance Desmond is sitting at least not until Rendon returns. I do think there is a possibility that Turner graduates earlier than anticipated but then there is the whole issue with service time. I don’t think the Nats want to lose Turner to free agency a year earlier than they would if they waited until May or June of 2016.

    I think it’s OK for Uggla to play the remaining 5 games before the break. We are just going to have to limp to the break as best we can and hope the pitchers carry us to a couple more wins. Fister was OK last night but not really shut down OK and Jansen really makes me nervous as our 8th inning guy. I would not have taken Treinen out after only 1 inning, he had great stuff and was already through the heart of the order but MW is dead set against using his relievers (not named Roark) for more than one inning.

    • therealjohnc - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      There were two LH batters coming up in the 8th, even putting aside the PH aspect, and Treinen’s splits against LH batters are gaspingly awful:

      vs. LH batters: .337/.390/.465/.855
      vs. RH batters, OTOH: .213/.285/.241/.526

      Those are his career numbers; this season the disparity is even more stark: .475 OPS against by RH batters; .930 OPS against by LH batters. That’s mind boggling. While Treinen can certainly go more than one inning at need, I can certainly understand why you might want to go to someone else for the 8th.

      So who else? Thornton had pitched the day before, and at his age they have been very careful about using him in back-to-back games. So in a tie game you could either go to a RH former closer Janssen or a LH rookie in Rivero. I can see an argument for either one, really. But hooking Treinen there? That’s pretty easy to understand.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        Thanks, realjohn. I know that it didn’t work out this time, but I have no problem with Janssen overall, though his loss of velocity is a concern.

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