WSH@BAL: Espinosa takes a base hit away from Markakis

MIAMI -- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa, who is playing for Triple-A Syracuse, is swinging a hot bat of late. Entering Friday's action, Espinosa is 15-for-32 (.468) in his last nine games. Manager Davey Johnson, an Espinosa supporter, is pleased about the infielder's progress.

"The last week or so, he has been awfully good. I check on him every day," Johnson said. "Hopefully he can continue that. I feel good about it."

It's not known when Espinosa will return to the big leagues. He most likely will be a September callup and become a backup middle infielder. It seems improbable that Espinosa would replace second baseman Anthony Rendon, who is having a solid rookie season, hitting .303 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

Zimmermann won't play in All-Star Game

Nationals send pair to 2013 All-Star Game

MIAMI -- Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has decided not to play in the 2013 All-Star Game because of tightness in his neck. Zimmermann will, however, take his family to the event at Citi Field in New York and suit up for the National League in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic on FOX.

Zimmermann had an MRI exam taken on Friday, and it revealed that he had an issue with some soft tissues in the neck, according to manager Davey Johnson. Zimmermann last pitched on Thursday, throwing 6 1/3 innings and allowing two runs in a 3-1 loss to the Phillies.


"I rather be healthy than go out there and just pitch one inning and then have the whole second half shot," Zimmermann said. "I think taking a few days off, no throwing and rest, we'll be good to go."

Zimmermann has had problems with the neck since the middle of May. He woke up one day and the neck started to hurt.

"I don't know if I strained a muscle or what the deal is," Zimmermann said. "I would wake up in the morning and it would be pretty stiff. As the day goes on, it gets better. Obviously, looking towards home, looking to first, I can feel the tightness in [the neck]. I don't think it affects anything, but it's a nuisance."

The injury hasn't hurt the pitcher's stats. Zimmermann has pitched in 19 games and is 12-4 with a 2.58 ERA.

Johnson spoke to Giants and NL manager Bruce Bochy on Friday afternoon and recommended that Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg or Rafael Soriano be considered for the All-Star team.

Gonzalez has pitched effectively for more than two months and looks like the pitcher that won 20 games for Washington last year. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his last 13 starts. He has a 2.18 ERA since May 1.

And despite having a losing record, Strasburg has a 2.45 ERA, which ranks sixth in the Major Leagues.

As for Soriano, he came to the Nationals as advertised, leading the team in saves with 24 to go along with a 2.13 ERA.