PHILADELPHIA -- Though he has suggested he won't be resting any of his regulars until the Nationals clinch the NL East title, manager Davey Johnson made the surprising decision today to sit Danny Espinosa and start Steve Lombardozzi at second base against the Phillies.
Espinosa has been dealing with a bone bruise in his left shoulder and received a cortisone shot last week to relieve the pain, but Johnson said the benching had nothing to do with that and was instead performance related.
"I think he's been pressing a little bit lately," Johnson said. "He's been swinging awfully hard. I just wanted to let him sit back and relax a little bit."
Espinosa did go 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts during Tuesday night's series opener at Citizens Bank Park, but he collected three hits (including a double) on Monday against the Brewers.
In eight games since receiving the cortisone shot, he's hitting .348 (8-for-23) with three doubles, four walks and six strikeouts.
"The last couple games, it looks like he's been over-swinging," Johnson said. "I know he's an intense competitor. I'm sure he thinks I'm an idiot. And maybe I am."
Johnson also cited Espinosa's career numbers against Philadelphia starter Kyle Kendrick (3-for-16 with a double, three walks and four strikeouts). Lombardozzi is 3-for-11 against the right-hander.
Espinosa expressed surprise upon arriving in the clubhouse today and not finding him name on the lineup card. He insisted his shoulder wasn't bothering him at all.
"I feel 100 percent," he said. "That's Johnson's decision. So go ask his reasoning. I'd like to know, too."
Lombardozzi had been getting consistent playing time through much of the season's first half, filling in for injured regulars Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse and Jayson Werth. But with all of those players now back healthy, the rookie has returned to the bench. He's received only 31 plate appearances over the Nationals' last 28 games, hitting .200 during that span.
"One of the guys I've really slighted the most is Lombo," Johnson said. "He was an everyday player, and probably playing as good as anybody. If memory serves me correct, he was hitting almost .300 and I just shut him down and started playing the other guys when they got healthy. ... His playing time was diminished, and he can play."