HOUSTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson was struck by the thought this weekend that Washington was lacking middle-infield depth, a need the club addressed Monday by claiming shortstop Cesar Izturis off waivers from the Brewers.
Johnson said he realized how few options he had when Mark DeRosa injured his left groin and Danny Espinosa got banged up on a headfirst slide into second base on Sunday. Also, shortstop Ian Desmond is still on the disabled list. So, they placed DeRosa on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday, and designated left-hander Atahualpa Severino for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for Izturis.
"We were naked there. We didn't have an insurance policy," Johnson said. "[Desmond] went down a few weeks ago, and the only guy who probably fit the bill is [Zach] Walters [an infielder recently promoted to Triple-A]. ... But he's still very young."
Izturis, 32, was not with the club in Houston on Monday, but is expected to join the Nationals for Tuesday's game against the Astros. Soon to be playing for his eighth Major League club, Izturis hit just .235 in 57 games with Milwaukee this season, although he hit .294 with four doubles, a triple and a home run in his last 16 games.
"To have him available, it must be our year. Real good defender," Johnson said. "It's like having spot starters in the bullpen. I sleep better."
If DeRosa was unavailable and something happened to either Espinosa or Steve Lombardozzi, Johnson would have been forced to get creative -- perhaps a little too creative for his liking. That would either require putting Ryan Zimmerman at shortstop with Chad Tracy at third base, putting Tracy somewhere up the middle or some other combination of moves Johnson hoped to avoid.
"I don't want to be doing all that. We're in a pennant race. You can't be doing that, so it was a good move," Johnson said. "This just protects us in a lot of ways."
Meanwhile, DeRosa's frustrating season continued, as he'll be shut down with what's officially listed as a left abdominal strain. The veteran utility man is hitting .152 in just 34 games this season. But he's handling his latest setback well, and understood the necessity of the move.
DeRosa will be further examined by a specialist in Philadelphia at some point during the club's 10-game road trip through Houston, Arizona and San Francisco, but planned to immediately return to the team.
"I'm sure tomorrow it'll feel good, but I understand they have a situation where they've got a crunch on healthy players on the roster at premium positions that they've got to address," DeRosa said. "It is what it is, man. There's nothing I can do about it. These guys have kept me upbeat. We're in first place. They like having me around. I enjoy being around."