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Espinosa on playing shorstop, cutting down on swing

Mar 1, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

AP AP

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.”

  1. Doc - Mar 1, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Hard to believe that it’s taken Danny this long to see the light on the ‘taking what they give you’ approach.

    • David Proctor - Mar 1, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      Saying it is one thing. Doing it is harder.

      • nats128 - Mar 1, 2014 at 12:49 PM

        Thats the key. Espinosa says alot of things. Putting it into action consistently is another.

        I saw him last spring training go with a shorter swing and once the season started he was back to that looping swing and trying to hit the ball 500 feet.

        If he really was a true power hitter it would be an acceptable result as Adam Dunn was a .928 OPS guy in his first season with the Nats to go with 177 K’s. Of course Dunn had other issues besides the Ks.

      • Doc - Mar 1, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        Correctomundo, DP.

        It’s the rare athlete that can change bad habits into good habits—which is why most of them have short careers!

  2. veejh - Mar 1, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    Let’s look on the bright side. Danny didn’t strike out twice yesterday. I’m no hitting coach, but I didn’t see much of a difference in his approach yesterday. Same ol, same ol.

    • Sec3MySofa - Mar 1, 2014 at 1:35 PM

      I only saw one AB, but yes. I was looking for differences and didn’t notice any. Of course, I wasn’t using split-screen side-by-side pictures, so my notoriously unreliable memory was probably a weak link there.

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Mar 1, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Off topic: Very sad to learn that Miguel Sano, the Twins’ 3B-in-waiting who was rated among the top 5 overall MLB prospects, will miss a season with Tommy John surgery. If you recall the documentary ‘Pelotero’ (Ballplayer), he was one of the two young Dominicans featured as plus-or-minus 16-year-olds international signees. Great movie, if you haven’t seen it.

  4. nats128 - Mar 1, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Don Sutton just told a story that Pat Corrales 6 years ago said about Espinosa “Hard working good player but you will have to live with alot of strikeouts.”

  5. wearenationals - Mar 1, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I escaped the frigid temps of DC and made it to SCS! Danny’s play in SS today was very good. Williams loves defense. Espi will go north come April.

    • senators5 - Mar 1, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Maybe he will come north, but maybe not with the Nats. I believe all of this pub is leading toward him being traded while management blows smoke about all of his upsides, ie; defense and playing SS.

  6. scnatsfan - Mar 1, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    I believe the same things were said about cutting down his swing last spring.

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