Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa was worried.
After making a diving play in a game against the Miami Marlins in a series earlier this month, Espinosa felt a pop in his left shoulder. He tried to shake it off and play through the pain, but an 0-for-11 series in Atlanta with nine strikeouts finally told Espinosa he couldn't just grind through his sudden shoulder weakness.
All the initial medical tests showed symptoms of a torn labrum -- an injury that likely would have ended Espinosa's season and required surgery. He even began comparing notes with first baseman Adam LaRoche, who suffered that same injury last spring and had his 2011 season end after just six weeks. The complete absence of power from his swing and an inability to keep his top hand in its proper position were troubling similarities between the two. Espinosa struggled to lift his arm even while playing catch.
But Espinosa received good news on Tuesday. An MRI the day before showed simply a bone bruise inside the capsule of his left shoulder. There was no labrum tear or rotator cuff damage. After a cortisone injection he said there was already noticeable improvement. Espinosa is listed as day-to-day but could play as soon as the doubleheader against Los Angeles on Wednesday.
"[Espinosa] cornered me and said 'Man, it feels great. I'm playing,'?" Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "I said 'They told you two days.' He said 'I'm hitting tomorrow, I'm playing.' So he's a tough kid. I'll probably have to get clearance from the doctor and then let the doctor fight Espinosa if he's not in there."
Espinosa said team doctors told him it's rare to have a bone bruise on the inside of the shoulder capsule.
"This is the best news that we could have gotten," Espinosa said. "If it was any type of tear they would have given me some kind of shot to get through it, and I could have stayed afloat, I guess, while I was playing."
The problem for Espinosa was that he wasn't in a ton of pain on the field. Baseball activities didn't hurt, the weakness just robbed him of his ability. His swing felt fine, but he was late on one pitch after another. It was off the field -- taking off a shirt, trying to sleep on the shoulder -- where he felt it most.
Meanwhile, the Nats received some good news on slugger Michael Morse, too. He has been out since last Wednesday with a bone bruise and a torn sheath in his left wrist. But his name was written on the lineup card for Tuesday's game against the Dodgers before it was postponed. Morse was headed to take some more swings in the batting cage after talking with reporters before the contest was officially called off.
"It's another day to heal. But Mike was feeling pretty good, and he was good to go," Johnson said. "We were anxious to have him back in the lineup."