MIAMI -- For the first time since April 19, Ian Desmond wasn't in the Nationals' lineup on Sunday.
Washington's All-Star shortstop was given the day off with a left oblique injury he has been dealing with for the last couple of months. Danny Espinosa started at short against the Marlins.
"The last two games, you could see he had the discomfort in his left oblique," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Espinosa was fielding grounders at shortstop on Sunday morning, and Johnson said utilizing Espinosa at shortstop could mean Desmond will miss a few games. Steve Lombardozzi started at shortstop in the only other game Desmond missed this season, April 19 against the Astros.
Since then, Desmond has played every inning of every game for Washington. He was named an All-Star this season for the first time in his career, but skipped the Midsummer Classic to rest the injury.
Johnson believes the four days off could have actually done more harm than good for Desmond, who has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games and leads all Major League shortstops in doubles (24), homers (17), RBIs (52), slugging percentage (.511) and extra-base hits (43).
"Sometimes when you have an injury and you totally rest it, sometimes it tries to over-heal and those muscles get a little tighter from the healing," Johnson said.
During the Nationals' first game out of the break, Johnson said he noticed the oblique still bothering Desmond. The effects became more noticeable on Saturday, when Desmond went 1-for-4 with a bunt single. Desmond told Johnson the reason he bunted for the base hit was because the injury flared up and he couldn't swing.
"We're just going to take it easy, especially the day game after a night game that it bothered [him]," Johnson said. "[He'll] get work on it. Hopefully, he can get by it."
While the lingering injury could cause Desmond to miss a few games, Johnson is optimistic that it won't require a stint on the disabled list.
"Hopefully, it's not a DL thing," Johnson said. "It's something that he's learned to live with -- and hopefully treatment, the stretching, can loosen it back up and he'll be good to go. Certainly his performance, it hasn't hurt his power."
Since returning from the All-Star break, outfielder Michael Morse is 0-for-8 with six strikeouts -- three in each of the first two games against the Marlins. While the six strikeouts are as many as Morse had in the first seven games of July, Johnson isn't too concerned.
"He's just in between the fastball and the breaking ball," Johnson said. "He's a better hitter than that. He'll come out of it."
The Nationals have allowed seven steals in the first two games after the break. The Marlins stole three bases on Friday, and then they swiped four bags against righty Craig Stammen during his two innings of relief on Saturday.
"[That's] on the pitcher," Johnson said. "Our delivery is really slow to the plate."
The four stolen bases matched the number of steals Stammen allowed in his first 32 appearances this season.
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.