Oblique tear puts Ian Desmond on DL

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The Nationals suffered a big blow Sunday, with shortstop Ian Desmond heading off to the disabled list with a torn oblique.

An MRI today revealed the extent of the injury, and Desmond is expected to miss at least a few weeks, CSNWashington.com’s Mark Zuckerman reports.

Desmond has been fighting the oblique for at least a month, and while he stayed in the Nationals’ lineup, he opted to skip the All-Star Game to try to rest it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The incredible thing is that Desmond increased his production while playing through the injury. Over his last 19 games, he was hitting .388 with six homers.

“He was playing so good with it, hitting rockets,” manager Davey Johnson said. “I just couldn’t read it. And they don’t MRI those things usually, we haven’t all year long. We just know it was kind of a strain.”

With Desmond out, the Nationals will play Danny Espinosa at shortstop and Steve Lombardozzi at second base. Lombardozzi was mostly playing left field this season while Michael Morse was sidelined. His at-bats in the outfield will now go to Corey Brown and Roger Bernadina, at least until Jayson Werth comes off the DL. Brown is coming up from Triple-A to replace Desmond on the roster.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.