Espinosa hurting, LaRoche struggling

Espinosa hurting, LaRoche struggling
April 15, 2013, 6:30 pm
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MIAMI -- Two regular members of the Nationals' starting lineup sat out tonight's series opener against the Marlins, though not for the same reason.

Second baseman Danny Espinosa continues to be bothered by a bruised right hand after getting hit with a pitch during Sunday's loss to the Braves. Adam LaRoche, meanwhile, is physically 100 percent but was given the night off to allow Tyler Moore an opportunity to start at first base.

Though Espinosa's injury isn't serious -- X-rays came back negative -- the base of his right hand is considerably swollen, leaving his wrist and hand stiff. Flying at high altitude on the Nationals' charter from Washington to Miami Sunday night didn't help matters.

"The swelling has increased so much that everything has got extremely stiff," he said. "The bruising is starting to settle in the back and all over my forearm and in my hand. The grip strength on my two fingers is ... really stiff. It's sore, but I would say that the swelling is what's making it hurt so bad."

Espinosa will likely miss Tuesday's game as well. He's aiming to return for Wednesday's series finale but acknowledges he may need to wait until Friday night, when the Nationals open a new series in New York against the Mets.

Steve Lombardozzi will start in Espinosa's place tonight, the second-year infielder's first start of the season.

Likewise, Tyler Moore is making his first start of the season, getting a chance to play first base in place of LaRoche, who isn't injured but has been struggling at the plate. The veteran slugger is hitting .147 with two homers and four RBI in 10 total games, though he doesn't feel like his swing is in a bad place at the moment.

"I've been way, way worse [in the past], as far as my timing up there," he said. "I'm a little passive still, still taking some pitches that I could do some damage with. But other than that, yesterday I felt like I hit three balls pretty good. Just bad placement. I've been there before."

LaRoche said his back, which was sore last weekend and caused him to miss two games in Cincinnati, has not been an issue since and had nothing to do with his benching tonight. Manager Davey Johnson simply wanted to find a way to get Moore some at-bats, and a matchup against Marlins left-hander Wade LeBlanc made sense.

"I texted [LaRoche] before I got here and said that I'd like to do this, more for Tyler Moore than for him," Johnson said. "It's about getting 25 guys going, not just one or two."

LaRoche, who is loathe to take days off during the season, wasn't happy about taking a seat tonight but said he understood his manager's rationale.

"We've talked about it plenty in the past, and we talked about it some more this morning: This is no time to be selfish," he said. "The guy needs to get some at-bats. It's tough being that young and coming off the bench, getting one at-bat every other night. As much as I want to play, I understand where the team is coming from."