PHILADELPHIA -- With the way Anthony Rendon has been playing with the bat and glove, it seems almost impossible that second baseman Danny Espinosa will reclaim his job at second base.
Asked if Espinosa can reclaim his job as the team's starting second baseman, manager Davey Johnson didn't answer the question, but praised Espinosa, calling him an excellent defensive player, but needed to get his hitting in order from both sides of the plate.
"We want him to be comfortable from both sides of the dish," Johnson said. "Once he does that, he could be an All-Star. It's that simple," Johnson said. "What Rendon is doing shouldn't have any bearing on what [Espinosa] is doing."
Espinosa, who is on the disabled list because of a right wrist fracture, started his rehab assignment last week for Triple-A Syracuse and was 2-for-11 with five strikeouts entering play Monday. Once the rehab assignment is over, Espinosa could be optioned to Syracuse in order to give him more time to improve his swing.
Harper cleared to begin strength work on knee
PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper saw Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, the team medical director, on Monday morning, and Harper was cleared to begin strengthening activities, which means he can walk and jog. The team is hoping Harper can soon progress toward running.
Harper will be evaluated regularly as the team tries to ramp up his activity. The swelling in his left knee, which was caused by too much activity, has gone down. Head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz said Harper should have been resting at some point.
"But he has improved and it's all good right now," Kuntz said. "The swelling is down and he was able to complete all the activities pain free. Now we are to the weight-building phase. We are going to try to notch his activity and keep progressing.
"We are adding bricks every day. We are trying to improve upon what he did yesterday and not lose any ground."
Kuntz didn't give a timetable as to when Harper will play in a big league game. Harper has been on the disabled list since June 1 because of left knee bursitis. He originally hurt the knee on May 13 after crashing into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium.
Span rests sore right foot in Philly opener
PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals center fielder Denard Span was not in Monday's lineup because of a deep bruise in his right foot. He is hoping that he is back in the lineup Tuesday.
Span hurt the foot after he fouled a ball in the sixth inning against the Indians on Sunday and was clearly in pain, slamming his bat to the ground as he was trying to walk off the pain. He remained in the game, however.
Span would later reach base on an infield single and move to second on an error by first baseman Mark Reynolds. Anthony Rendon was the next hitter, and he singled to right field. Span normally would have scored easily, but he had to hold up at third.
After the team arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday night, Span, who needed a shoehorn to put on his shoe postgame, was able to walk around without any serious problems. But when he woke up Monday morning, Span said the foot was tender, and he received treatment.
Span said he has never had a problem with his foot until this season, during which he has fouled a ball off his foot three times. Span has a theory as to why he has foot problems this year. It may have to do with his swing. Since May 19, Span's batting average has dropped from .287 to 256.
"My swing right now is not good. My swing is not what it normally is," Span said. "[Manager Davey Johnson] said it's not my swing, but it's my timing. Either way, it has something to do with my swing. I never done this in 25 years. I probably fouled off a pitch on the side of my foot, but you get right back in the box. But I've never squared off the top of my foot three times."
Span was able to take some soft-toss swings without any problems Monday.
• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche was given the day off against Phillies left-hander John Lannan on Monday. Johnson said it was just a day off for LaRoche and he wanted to give players such as Chris Marrero and Jeff Kobernus a chance to play. Over his last 40 games prior to Monday, LaRoche was 42-for 139 (.302) with seven home runs and 22 RBIs.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.