Nats make several major changes
[Updated 6:09 p.m.]
Returning home a game below .500 after a series loss against the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals made major roster moves on Tuesday in attempt to right the ship.
Second baseman Danny Espinosa was sent to the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to June 3), and relief pitchers Henry Rodgriguez and Zach Duke were designated for assignment. Called up to replace them were infielder Anthony Rendon from the Syracuse Chiefs and relief pitcher Ian Krol from the Harrisburg Senators. Outfielder Jayson Werth was also activated from the disabled list.
“It was a tough day for me,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Any time you have to designate a couple of your family to the waiver list, it’s tough. You feel a little lost that you couldn’t have put them in situations to get better. So it hurts, it hurts both ways.”
“It has nothing to do with trying something different,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “It’s putting the best 25 out there at this particular time to help us win baseball games. “
When the clubhouse opened on Tuesday afternoon, Espinosa’s locker was completely cleaned out. Rodriguez was packing up his things and headed for the waiver wire. Duke was nowhere to be seen.
Espinosa headlines the Nats’ moves as the second baseman was a mainstay in the team’s lineup for the last three seasons. He will take some time off to rest his fractured right wrist and will now see the Nats’ hand specialist in Baltimore. He will have MRIs done on both his wrist and left shoulder, which was discovered to have a torn rotator cuff in the offseason.
“He didn’t want anyone to look at it and then when we X-rayed it we found out it was broke,” Johnson said. “He was playing right through it. But the rest will do him good and I’m sure he’ll come back strong.”
Espinosa played 158 games in 2011 and 160 in 2012, despite struggling with a .230 career batting average. He played through the shoulder injury in 2012 and saw his production slip, a slump that carried over into the 2013 season. Through 44 games this year Espinosa is hitting just .158.
Rizzo said a stint in the minors once Espinosa is healthy is not out of the question.
“We finally put Danny on the disabled list to clean up all the wrist questions that we had and for him to rehab and then go down to the minor leagues, with a healthy wrist, go down there and work on the mental side of hitting,” he said.
Rodriguez and Duke had both experienced major troubles this season out of the Nats’ bullpen. They will now have three days to pass through waivers. If they do, the Nats then have seven days to either trade, release, or outright them to the majors.
Rodriguez held a 4.00 ERA through 17 games and recently gave up the winning run in the Nats’ loss to the Braves on Saturday night.
“Henry’s got a great arm,” Johnson said. “He had a little bit of a problem with his elbow, corrected that, but his command hadn’t come back to the point where we felt that comfortable moving forward. I’m sure he’ll also get picked up and that’s a good pickup because he can help a lot of ballclubs.”
“It’s very difficult,” Rizzo said. “He was a guy we traded for, we liked at the time to trade, we thought that we could make him an impact-type of reliever and it just didn’t work out for us.”
Duke held the worst ERA of all Nats pitchers this season at 8.71 with 20 earned runs in just 12 appearances. He was picked up last season by the Nationals and impressed late in the year, but could not carry it over into 2013. He will also have the chance of finding another team through the waiver wire.
“Duke, I really like him as a starter,” Johnson said. “The starting staff we’ve got, I haven’t needed a lot of longmen.”
“His situation was very tough. Having to start an inning maybe once every ten days or so, that’s very difficult. He relies on change of speeds and location and stuff. He’s a guy that has been starting his whole life. I feel confident he’ll probably get picked up to start somewhere.”
Rendon rejoins the Nationals after a brief stint with the club earlier in the season. He was called up to make his major league debut on April 21 with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, but sent back down after playing against Atlanta on May 2. Through eight MLB games this season he holds a .240 average with two runs and an RBI.
Johnson was impressed with Rendon in spring training and in the eight games he played with the Nats this season. Johnson had Steve Lombardozzi starting at second base on Tuesday, but the rookie could see some time there soon.
“Rendon showed that he had an awfully good bat potential,” Johnsons said. “He was an awfully good third baseman and I’m sure he’d be pretty good over there at second, too. I’ll be looking at all the options.
Rendon played third in college, but has spent time at second in Washington’s minor league system. He said second base was his first position in Little League and that could help the transition.
“I feel comfortable there. I grew up playing second base,” he said.
“That was actually my first position growing up because I was always the small guy on the team so they just threw me at second base. I guess it kind of brings back memories of, you know, doing the same stuff over there. Brings me back to being a kid.”
Krol is called up to the majors for the first time after impressing at Double-A Harrisburg with a 0.69 ERA through 21 games. He was acquired by the Nats in an offseason trade that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners. It was a three-team trade that brought Krol over from the Oakland Athletics after four years in their minor league system.
“Ian Krol in Double-A has really shown that he’s got good stuff,” Rizzo said. “He’s got the mental makeup to throw the ball over the plate with good stuff and his ability to get out both left-handers and right-handers made him a real interesting option for us.”