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Williams not ready to name starting second baseman

Mar 21, 2014, 1:54 PM EDT

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JUPITER, Fla. — With less than a week of spring training to go, Nationals manager Matt Williams still doesn’t want to name his starting second baseman, saying he wants both Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa to continue competing down to the wire.

“I’m not ready to make that decision yet,” Williams said prior to today’s game against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. “Again, we’ve got a week left, and they’ll continue to play and get at-bats. I like what I’ve seen. They’ve both played really well. Competed well.”

Williams praised both Rendon and Espinosa’s performance and approach this spring, factors in the delayed decision.

“I think they’ve both played really well,” he said. “That’s a tough decision for us to make. As you come into spring training as a player, I would imagine you want to make it difficult on the manager to make a decision and for the organization to make that decision. So they’ve both done really, really well. Played well.”

Williams may not be saying publicly who is winning the job, but all indications continue to suggest Rendon will get the nod, with Espinosa serving as the Nationals’ backup infielder.

Among the evidence: Rendon has started eight games at second base this spring, only four at third base; Espinosa has started more games at shortstop (seven) than second base (six).

At the plate, Rendon has enjoyed more success, hitting .344 with a .921 OPS. Espinosa entered today’s game hitting .200 with a .507 OPS, but Williams has noted he’s less concerned with the results and more impressed with Espinosa’s hitting approach (cutting down on his swing, looking to go the other way more).

Though it certainly appears Espinosa will make the Opening Day roster, if only as a reserve, Williams isn’t ready to publicly commit to that yet, either.

“I’m not there yet,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s appropriate for either one of the guys. Because coming in, I asked them both to compete, and I asked them to be ready to play every day. And we’ve provided them that. They’ve both got a lot of playing time. I don’t want to, at this point, say anything that would jeopardize their competition in their brain. And that’s healthy. It’s good for them to do that. And so at this point, I can’t say. I just want them to finish up spring and continue to work hard. And we’ll make those decisions.”

  1. Doc - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Bullshoi, Matty!

  2. Doc - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Bullshoi, Matty!

  3. Doc - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    ‘….don’t want to… jeopardize their competition in their brain….”

    Jeopardizing competition in the brain is one of the more significant problems in baseball to-day. Right up there with PEDs and concussions! LOL

  4. Doc - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    DFA Hairston, and keep Kobernus for pinch-running and TyMo for the batting bench!

    Best 25!

    • natinalsgo - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:02 PM

      It won’t happen but I like it.

    • Joe Seamhead - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:14 PM

      Doc, I often agree with your thoughts, but I just don’t know where you play Kobernus other than as a pinch runner. He’s not worth a roster spot, IMHO. I am not a fan of Scott Hairston either, but Rizzo committed to paying him this year. Why, I can’t tell you, but I would be surprised if he gets cut, or DFA’ed.

      • Doc - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:50 PM

        Agreed, Seams. A pinch runner is a luxury, and I don’t see Kobernus fitting in anywhere else.

        It’s just that he offers more on the base paths than any other Nat.

        I don’t see Hairston lasting the whole season.

  5. nats1924 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    if we go through what we did last year with Espi hitting .150 for the first two months ill hang myself

    • Jeff G - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      I’ve never had a post on this site make me laugh half this much.

  6. Hiram Hover - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    As I said in an earlier thread, Matty hasn’t yet managed a single game that counts, but he has mastered the art of big league BS.

    • nats1924 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      lol true

  7. philipd763 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    “Both hitting well.”. Hmmm…..344 vs .200. What am I missing?

    • zmunchkin - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      The fact that Matt Williams is looking at how he is swinging, what he is swinging at, whether the balls that are outs were well hit . . . . . . He gives that more weight and is not as concerned as most fans are with a player’s BA, OBP, etc.

      • zmunchkin - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        And it is important to note what he did not say. He did not say that they are even now. He said he is not ready to make his decision.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:03 PM

      .344 v .184

      • Hiram Hover - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        Both hitting well … over .100.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        Luckily!

  8. letswin3 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    I have two thoughts for possibilities: 1) There is, and has been, a deal in progress to deal Danny. and 2) Matty has been asked to obfuscate the fact that he can make an obvious decision, because Rizzo is still out there trying to complete number 1). Both of my possibilities are suspect since Walters has been sent down, although Carroll could still be the default final choice as the bench middle infielder.. If the answer is that Matty actually doesn’t yet know who the starter at second is going to be (of course he does), then the Nats made a poor decision in selecting their new manager. Until Matty fesses up, I’ll be checking the trade wires.

  9. Faraz Shaikh - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    oh please, I love Danny but come on, there is no way Rendon is not our starting 2B. I can think of only one way and I hope that never comes to pass. This might all be to keep Boras happy. :P

    • David Proctor - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      But Rendon is a Boras client too

      • Faraz Shaikh - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        oops, swing and a miss there!

  10. philipd763 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Every time I have checked a box score, H-Rod has pitched a 1-2-3 inning in relief for the Marlins. When the season starts and the pressure is on, we might see different results.

    • ArVAFan - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      Or, he finally gets it together and manages to pitch well. For the Fish. The fish are hoping (praying? do fish pray?) for that outcome.

      • realdealnats - Mar 21, 2014 at 8:02 PM

        Fish study I believe

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:02 PM

        I know they believe in evolution, I’ve seen the bumper sticker.

  11. tcostant - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    As much suspense here as there was for who will start Opening Day. Rendon easy…

  12. langleyclub - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Given that Igelsias is likely done for the year, Espinosa to the Tigers seems like an obvious move. He is a solid defensive shortstop and hitting #9 in an AL lineup is perfect for him. He has pop and can run. The problem for Danny is that if he stays in the NL; hitting #8 is bad for him because he chases bad pitches and having two almost guaranteed outs at the bottom of a lineup really hurts.

    The only problem is the lack of your trade able talent in the Tigers system. Wish MLB allowed draft picks to be traded.

    If there is no trade, Rendon will start at 2B. This is not even a close call.

  13. masterfishkeeper - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    I’d be shocked if Espinosa is traded. It would leave the Nationals without a backup for Desmond. Moreover, odds are that someone on the infield will miss a chunk of games. Espinosa, because of his defensive skills, gives the Nationals important depth, at a very affordable salary.

    • veejh - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      Agree.

    • zmunchkin - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      +1

  14. Jaymo - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    What the hell?! Rendon has earned the job…a guy hitting over .300 and Espinosa isn’t within 100 points?! C’mon…sure, Espinosa is a good guy and all…but he is clearly a major step down from Rendon. Espi nay play better D…but not so much better that it’s worth putting his weak stick out there.

  15. natsempire - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    To Joe Seamhead

    Remember that in 2012 the Nats assigned John Lannon to Syracuse after spring training.
    His guaranteed salary was $5 million. Far more than Scott Harrison’s. That was a gutsy move.
    They could do the same with Harrison.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      Not without his consent. He has more than five years service time; he has to agree to be sent down. And I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing he’s out of options and would have to clear waivers.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:15 PM

        Unless you meant William Henry Harrison, the racing president who’s still in High A, blocked by Taft and Teddy both.

        If you meant Scott Hairston, then no.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:17 PM

        Just out of curiosity, I checked, and Scott Hairston is indeed out of option years.

  16. natsempire - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Would someone pick up this guy for almost $2mill. given age/defensive liabilities, lack of hitting in this spring
    training and last year regular season? Can’t imagine a National League team doing it. American league
    team- less than 50-50 I think

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