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'Pressing' Espinosa takes a seat on Nats bench

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'Pressing' Espinosa takes a seat on Nats bench

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."

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT