When the Nationals placed shortstop Ian Desmond on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a small tear in his left oblique, they recalled an outfielder, Corey Brown, from Triple-A Syracuse.
That's in part because the team lacks sufficient infield depth in the minors, in part because Brown has had a tremendous season with the Chiefs and in part because the solution to Desmond's absence at the big league level is obvious: Move Danny Espinosa from second base to short.
That's exactly what manager Davey Johnson did for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves. Espinosa was back in the lineup there for Monday's game at the New York Mets and will be for the foreseeable future as Desmond is likely out for a month. Steve Lombardozzi, used as a left fielder and utility infielder this season, takes over at second base, his natural position.
Espinosa, too, returns to his natural position. He was a star shortstop in college at Long Beach State before Washington drafted him in the third round in 2008. It doesn't hurt that he has a strong arm that translates well to that position defensively, if lacking some of Desmond's range.
"There's a couple things, the throws, the long throws I guess are just throws you don't make at second base," Espinosa said. "Just reading the ball off the bat is totally different the way the ball spins and everything. The first few games I was there, I had Ian in the dugout helping me as far as what he thought position-wise so I could just kind of get a feel for it. It comes back."
It also doesn't hurt that Espinosa is on fire at the plate. In 18 games during July entering Monday's contest, Espinosa was batting .354 with six doubles, a triple and two home runs. He has a .569 slugging percentage and a .964 OPS.
"I saw it probably three weeks ago, maybe a month. [Espinosa] started having better at-bats," Johnson said. "He was just more consistent. He was getting to more balls. He was using the whole field. He was hitting some balls hard, but nothing was falling for him."