WASHINGTON -- By acquiring infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from Indians, the Nationals will put Danny Espinosa back on the bench starting Friday night against the Phillies. That's when Cabrera is expected to join the Nationals.
Espinosa started most of this season's games at second base. While he was great defensively, Espinosa continued to struggle at the plate. Entering Thursday, Espinosa was hitting .217 with six home runs, 21 RBIs and 101 strikeouts in 277 at-bats. Espinosa will be a defensive replacement and a pinch-runner.
Espinosa said he understood the situation and is looking to play well as a reserve.
"Yeah, I get that," Espinosa said about his new role. "I'm sure that's what it is, anyway. It's something that is thoroughly understood. If [Cabrera] helps the team, that's a good thing. I'm happy if we can win."
Denard Span is familiar with Cabrera. As a member of the Twins, Span often played against Cabrera and the Indians while both were in the American League Central.
"He is a good player. I played against him for three years. Arguably for two years, he was the best shortstop in the game," Span said. "Definitely a good pickup for us. From what I know about him, he is a good guy, he is a good teammate and has fun."
Right fielder Jayson Werth said Cabrera makes the lineup stronger, but feel Zach Walters, who was trade for Cabrera, will get a chance to show his skills in Cleveland, something he couldn't do in Washington.
[Cabrera] is a switch-hitter; he adds balance," Werth said. "With [Ryan Zimmerman] out, he is a big RBI guy, so we have to pick it up."
In fact, general manager Mike Rizzo said he may not have made a trade if not for the Zimmerman injury.
Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Wednesday after straining his hamstring while running to first base against the Rockies the previous day. Zimmerman was scheduled to see the doctor Monday, but the Nationals have been mum on his health status.
"[The injury] factored into it. With a healthy Zim and a healthy eight players that we had, we wouldn't have a need to acquire a player as skillful as Cabrera," Rizzo said. "Like we said, we like the team that we have. But when Zim went down, to protect ourselves, we felt we should go out and get ourselves a good veteran person that fits into the lineup."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.