Nationals' First Grapefruit League Game
VIERA, Fla. — For a guy who has been told he's competing for the starting job at second base, Danny Espinosa has spent an awful lot of time at shortstop this spring.
When Nationals infielders take their positions for defensive drills, Espinosa has been joining Ian Desmond at short, shifting to second only for the latter stages of workouts. He did start at second base in Friday's Grapefruit League opener against the Mets but today is starting at shortstop as the Nationals host the Braves and will continue to bounce back and forth between the two.
"I want him to break it up," manager Matt Williams said. "He'll see a lot of time at short, too. It's important that he does that and that he feels comfortable in both spots."
Espinosa, who came up through the minors as a shortstop before converting to second base just before his big-league debut in 2010 because Desmond had already established his place with the Nationals, sees advantages to getting so much work at shortstop during spring training.
"At shortstop, you've got to work through the ball," he said. "At second base, you have much more time. That's why I like taking grounders at short. It's better for any infielder, just because you're constantly working through the ball. It helps your feet and your hands work in sync."
There are no questions about Espinosa's defensive skills, at either position. His eventual fate, of course, will be determined by what he does at the plate on the heels of a miserable season that saw him hit .158 and then get demoted to Class AAA Syracuse.
To that end, hitting coach Rick Schu is working with Espinosa on his approach, especially from the left side, where they'd like him to look to take the ball to the opposite field more.
"He takes healthy cuts, because that's what he does," Williams said. "But Rick is talking to him about being able to take what they give you a little bit more. Not necessarily cutting your swing down, but taking a little bit of what they're giving you a little more. And he's working on that. We're all working on that. Over the course of spring, we'll be able to tell. But if they're not going to give you something to drive, sometimes you just have to take what they're giving you."
Espinosa, who at times in his career has fallen into the habit of trying to pull everything from the left side of the plate, understands the adjustment he needs to make.
"If I'm getting to a point where I'm just getting pitched away, there's no point trying to pull the ball," he said. "It's counterproductive. That's what I'm trying to do: Go up there, see the ball and hit it where it's pitched."