Sep 3, 2013, 6:32 PM EDT
PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals made their final round of September call-ups on Tuesday, promoting five more players from Class AAA Syracuse, including infielder Zach Walters.
More significant than those were were brought up for the season’s final month, though, was one player who didn’t get the call: Danny Espinosa.
The Nationals’ Opening Day second baseman, demoted to the minors in June after a horrendous start to his season, never did get on track and wound up hitting just .216 with two homers, a .280 on-base percentage and 101 strikeouts in 313 plate appearances at Syracuse.
Though there was some consideration to calling Espinosa up and using him as a defensive replacement or pinch-hitter down the stretch, manager Davey Johnson said that wouldn’t have been fair to the 26-year-old.
“I consider Danny an everyday player,” Johnson said. “I love Danny. The situation we’re in right now and the struggles he’s had this year, I wouldn’t want him to be sitting around here not playing. I don’t think he would’ve been happy with it.”
After appearing in only 44 big-league games this season — he hit a meager .158 with a .193 on-base percentage and .465 OPS — Espinosa faces an uncertain future this winter. Anthony Rendon’s emergence likely negates any realistic possibility of Espinosa recapturing his starting job with the Nationals, but his trade value will be low after an abysmal year that didn’t even include a September promotion.
“I know he’s got a lot of talent,” Johnson said. “It would be nice to put him in to pinch-run and occasionally pinch-hit and provide some defense. He could do that. But it’s so far down his role, that would be such a lesser role than what I’ve always envisioned for him while he’s been here. So he could be more mad at me, because I did not want him here and not have him in the lineup. It’s that simple.”
The five players who did get promoted on Tuesday — Walters, outfielders Eury Perez and Corey Brown, utilityman Jeff Kobernus, left-hander Xavier Cedeno — may not see much playing time themselves over the season’s final four weeks. The Nationals, though, wanted to reward them for their minor-league performances.
“It’s not going to be a priority, and they understand that,” Johnson. “If we continue to play like we have three of the last four, they’ll be getting a lot of playing time. But I don’t expect that to happen. I expect us to play better and make this a pennant race.”
Perez, Brown, Kobernus and Cedeno all have made previous appearances for the Nationals, making Walters the lone newbie among this year’s September call-ups. The 23-year-old infielder enjoyed a breakthrough season at Syracuse, clubbing 29 homers and 32 doubles to lead the Chiefs’ lineup.
Acquired from the Diamondbacks at the July 31, 2011 trade deadline for Jason Marquis, Walters was downright giddy upon entering the visitors clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s humbling,” the Cheyenne, Wyo., native said. “I’m just a kid from a small town. I worked hard, but to be here, it’s part of a dream come true. I know I’m sure you guys have heard ‘Dream come true,’ but I always dreamed of winning a World Series, so I think this is an amazing opportunity I have.”
Walters, a third baseman and shortstop by trade, also understands his role in the big leagues over the next four weeks may not be typical after meeting with Johnson on Tuesday afternoon.
“Yeah, we talked about Powerade mixes, blue Powerade mixes,” he joked. “Guys like the seeds in alphabetical order. I think the scrubbing bubbles are somewhere around the corner.”
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