As he tried to swing at pitches during Sunday night's game in Atlanta, unable to generate any power or bat speed with his left shoulder, Danny Espinosa started fearing the worst.
"I thought it was a labrum tear," he said.
An MRI taken on Espinosa's shoulder on Monday, however, not only allayed those fears but left the Nationals second baseman as upbeat as he's been in a week. The actual diagnosis: a bone bruise in his shoulder's capsule, treated with a cortisone shot that may allow Espinosa to return to the lineup as soon as Wednesday.
"This is the best news that we could have gotten," he said. "If this was a rotator cuff tear or a labrum tear, it would have lingered the rest of the season. I would have had to have surgery in the offseason. This is the best. I didn't think there was going to be a bruise in there, but this was definitely the best news we could have gotten."
Espinosa said he believes he injured himself during the Nationals' Sept. 7 game against the Marlins when he dove for a ball at second base.
"When I came down, I could really tell I had over-extended my arm," he said. "And I felt something kind of pop, or something kind of jam. At the end of that inning, I grabbed my bat just to see if it was hurting or not. I took a swing. I could tell it was weak. I thought it would just eventually go away."
The feeling didn't go away, and Espinosa came to realize that weakness from preventing him from catching up to fastballs or driving the ball when he did make contact. After going 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts over the weekend in Atlanta, he finally told manager Davey Johnson he didn't think he should come up to bat again.
Espinosa's fears grew when he asked teammate Adam LaRoche about the torn labrum the veteran first baseman suffered last season and was told the sensation was similar.
But then came Monday's appointment with team orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih, who diagnosed only a bone bruise in the shoulder capsule and administered a cortisone shot that immediately relieved the condition and allowed Espinosa to perform the simple daily tasks -- like putting on a shirt -- that had become painful.
"I definitely can go about a normal day and not wake up in the middle of the night and have pain going through my shoulder," he said. "So it feels like they got the right spot."
Espinosa was not in the Nationals' lineup for Tuesday night's game before it was postponed, and there's no guarantee yet he'll be cleared to play Wednesday. He must first take batting practice and experience no problems, but he's hoping he gets the green light.
"The doc said I could swing Wednesday," Espinosa said. "As long as I feel strong in swinging, it's kind of on what me and Davey think. It's just day-to-day."
Left fielder Michael Morse, meanwhile, was listed in the original lineup for Tuesday's game after missing the last four days with a bone bruise in his left wrist. Morse said rest has helped ease the pain but he wouldn't know for sure until he took a full round of batting practice.