Yunel Escobar shut down for 7-10 days with Grade 1 oblique strain

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Yunel Escobar is expected to be the Nationals’ regular second baseman this season, but he’ll now be a bit behind in preparation for Opening Day. Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that Escobar has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his left oblique.

Escobar, who was acquired from the Athletics over the winter, will be shut down for the next 7-10 days. Oblique injuries are notoriously tricky, but Nationals manager Matt Williams believes the injury is relatively minor and that he’ll still have enough time to get ready for the start of the season.

“He’s an athlete, and he’ll be fine doing it,” Williams said. “From what we have seen thus far, he’s able to handle everything. Does it put him behind the 8-ball a little bit? Sure. He doesn’t get a chance to work with those guys as much as he ordinarily would. But if he’s 7-10 days down, he’s still going to have a couple weeks of games in spring to get prepared. He’ll be fine.”

Escobar, 32, batted .258/.324/.340 with seven home runs and 39 RBI over 137 games with the Rays last season. He has primarily played shortstop in his career, but he’s making the move to second base with Washington.

Reds are the frontrunner for Nicholas Castellanos

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Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds “have emerged as the frontrunner” to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Morosi says the Reds and Castellanos “have made progress over the past several days.”

The Reds were going to have a lot of outfielders already when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps. And, of course, the Reds could trade from their outfield surplus if, indeed, they end up with an outfield surplus.

Without question, however, Castellanos would be the big dog, at least offensively, in that setup. He had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power. If he were to sign to play half his season in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.