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Espinosa works more at SS than 2B on first day

Feb 20, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

AP AP

VIERA, Fla. — Read into it as much or as little as you like, but it didn’t go unnoticed Thursday that Danny Espinosa spent more time at shortstop than second base during the Nationals’ first full-squad workout of the spring.

Matt Williams has said Espinosa is in an “open competition” with Anthony Rendon for the starting job at second base, and the new manager isn’t altering that stance. Clearly, though, the Nationals are preparing for a scenario in which Espinosa opens the season on the bench, backing up both Rendon at second base and Ian Desmond at shortstop.

“He’s been playing both positions, and I envision him doing that,” Williams said. “Depending on how his spring goes … but I envision him being able to play short. He’s very good over there.”

When the full Nationals infield took its place Thursday morning for the first official drill of the spring — bunt plays — Espinosa joined Desmond at shortstop, with Rendon and Jeff Kobernus at second base. Roughly two-thirds of the way through the drill, Rendon joined Ryan Zimmerman at third base and Espinosa shifted to second. When the entire group moved to another field for the next drill, Espinosa again joined Desmond at short.

Espinosa actually has logged nearly as much playing time at shortstop (333 games) as second base (400) during his professional career, having come up through the minors as a slick-fielding shortstop. Only Desmond’s emergence late in 2010 prompted the Nationals to slide Espinosa over to the other side of the diamond, where he has spent the bulk of his big-time time (352 games to 39).

But in the wake of a dreadful season that saw Espinosa hit .158 in Washington and get demoted to Class AAA Syracuse, the Nationals now find themselves considering the 26-year-old for a utility role.

“As we talk about it and as we think about it, if there is a situation where Ian needs a day, or he’s going to be out for our five days … you need somebody that can step in and play that position and play it effectively. So [Espinosa] will work both places. Today he was at short mostly, and he’ll flip-flop back and forth. But he’s a guy that can certainly play it at a very high caliber, so we want to make sure that he gets his work there as well.”

Though the Nationals envision a scenario in which Espinosa backs up at both middle-infield positions, they don’t intend to open the season with Rendon holding that role. He is getting time this spring at third base, his natural position in college and during his brief time in the minors, but he won’t be used as anything more than an emergency shortstop.

“In a perfect world, I think it would be Danny,” Williams said when asked about his backup shortstop. “Because he’s just more accustomed to doing it. I think if we put Anthony at short, pending some type of emergency situation, it’s a little unfair to him.”

  1. natsguy - Feb 20, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    Hopefully he is being showcased so they can get his @3=#4#4596 out of here. I would gladly give him away, but Mr. Rizzo probably wants a little more.

    • David Proctor - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      And who exactly plays SS if Desmond gets hurt? Espinosa is by far our best defender at SS behind Desmond.

      • therealjohnc - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:47 PM

        Yeah, this. Personally I don’t want to see Rendon, Carroll, Rhymes, or Zach Walters (with his sub-.300 OBP and 39 errors in AAA) at SS for any length of time this year. If Desmond were to get hurt (*knocks on wood, throws salt over shoulder to avoid jinx*) then the Nats can live with a good-field, no-hit SS.

    • jd - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      Did he kick your dog or something?

    • sjm308 - Feb 20, 2014 at 10:07 PM

      Just another reason you are probably not a GM

  2. jd - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    This is a player who was 3.2 WAR in 2011 and 3.4 in 2012 and you want to give him away? good thing you aren’t the GM.

    • nats128 - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      Agreed. Hard to believe someone would suggest that with a straight face unless Espinosa was considered a clubhouse problem.

  3. nats128 - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    If Espinosas attitude is straight then he is the best one to be the middle infielder bench guy. Still hoping he gets many reps at 3rd. Im still nervous about RZs range and arm. Just like the Tigers had been doing with Miguel Cabrera and the Cardinals did with David Frese late in games with leads you can bring in a defensive upgrade. Espinosa could be invaluable if that need arose.

  4. Doc - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Espi needs most of his work in the batter’s box, not on the field.

  5. Hiram Hover - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    Much of the drama around Espi isn’t his fault, but I’m really tired of it, all the same.

    Here’s hoping he straightens himself out, keeps his head down, and puts an end to it.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:18 PM

      agreed!!! Hope the same.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    wow, simmons also extended!

    • therealjohnc - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:51 PM

      Risky extension, and a complicated situation. No one knows whether he would have qualified for arbitration early (as a “Super Two”). Also his bat is a big question mark, and that’s a lot of money to invest in a good-field, no-hit guy if his power fades away as quickly as it appeared.

  7. sunshinebobby - Feb 21, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    I know the regulars jumped on you, natsguy, but I’m with you. I’m tired of Espi too. If we see him, it’ll be probably because Zimm or Desi gets hurt, which is never good. But mostly I’m tired of him striking out on that slow inside breaking pitch that would probably hit him in the left leg if he wasn’t swinging so wildly.

    Houston, Bo, please take this problem off our hands.

    • nats128 - Feb 21, 2014 at 5:15 AM

      Im tired of him also however lets remember that a middle infielder who can field his position at his salary still has some value so you dont give him away for nothing. He could also be a better backup alternative taking the spot Lombo had which this team needs as long as Espi can be a good clubhouse guy.

      “But mostly I’m tired of him striking out on that slow inside breaking pitch that would probably hit him in the left leg if he wasn’t swinging so wildly.”

      Yes, his plate discipline is awful and dont forget that fastball at his eyeballs he likes to swing at.

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