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Espinosa making the most of everyday opportunity

Apr 20, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT

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The Nationals were adamant about retaining Danny Espinosa on the heels of a disastrous 2013, despite interest from other clubs over the winter, for one simple reason: He would be their best option to take over an everyday role in the event of injury to any of their starting infielders.

Sure enough, with Ryan Zimmerman shelved for at least a month with a fractured thumb, Espinosa has been forced into the Nationals’ lineup. And he has made the most of the opportunity, rewarding club officials for their faith in him.

Espinosa enters Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals hitting .273 with a .500 slugging percentage, more than adequate production given the situation.

More than the numbers themselves, the Nationals continue to be impressed with Espinosa’s approach at the plate. He continues to drive the ball to the opposite field, especially from the left side of the plate.

Even when he has pulled the ball, he is hitting more line drives than high flyballs. As was the case Saturday afternoon, when Espinosa drilled his first homer of the season, a rocket to right-center just over the out-of-town scoreboard.

“I was just trying to stay patient and get a ball out over the plate,” he said. “I waited through my at-bat. He was coming in pretty hard, and I got a pitch I could take a good swing on.”

That homer raised Espinosa left-handed OPS to .779, more than 100 points above his career mark, another sign of his progress from what has traditionally been the weaker of his two swings.

And with Zimmerman out several more weeks, with Anthony Rendon forced to move to third base, Espinosa will continue to find himself in the Nationals’ lineup on a daily basis, hoping to continue to make the most of this opportunity.

  1. Sonny G 10 - Apr 20, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Well, he’s definitely increasing his trade value, but I don’t want him to be traded.

    • letswin3 - Apr 20, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      If he can keep anything close to this pace up, he will be an asset, not just for the remainder of this year, but again next year when Zim is likely to move to first. I admit to being surprised so far, but I also won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 20, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    He’s doing fine but still needs to start hitting in High Lev situations. His HR yesterday showed how his mechanics are working and he needs to relax with men on base.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 20, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    He’s doing fine but still needs to start hitting in High Lev situations. His HR yesterday showed how his mechanics are working and he needs to relax with men on base.

    • cayucosbaseballconservancy - Apr 20, 2014 at 7:27 PM

      Uhhmmm kind of like he did today to tie and then he scored the winning run?

      He’s likely to be the next shortstop given that Desmond eschewed the long-term deal over the offseason. And Desmond appears to be swinging at everything that moves this season as well …

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 20, 2014 at 7:36 PM

        Peric, exactly. He did it today. This is what he has needed to elevate his game to. While he has been doing excellent with no runners on base, he has not been good before today with RISP.

        On you reading your crystal ball on Desi’s future, I fully expect him to be extended. Both sides want the Nats relationship to continue and the difference is probably not large in dollars or years.

      • Section 222 - Apr 20, 2014 at 8:47 PM

        So you’ve moved from predicting he’ll be in the HoF to predicting that he’ll be our starting shortstop next year?

  4. dgourds - Apr 20, 2014 at 9:39 PM

    Espi’s resurgence is the most encouraging part of this season. If he is for real, I believe Zimmerman will have a hard time getting his starting job back. The team will be better off with Zim coming off the bench. You just can’t have a third baseman who can’t reliably make a routine throw across the diamond.

    • theguyfrom4staff - Apr 21, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Surely you can’t be serious??? Perhaps you may think Zim will replace LaRoche at first base next year, but “off the bench”? I know 4/20 was National Weed Day, but you gotta stop smoking and clear your head!

      • dgourds - Apr 21, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Nope, don’t smoke dope or drink. Why would you put such a defensive liability out there if you are getting great defense and good offensive production from Espi and Rendon? This is all predicated on whether Espi has truly turned the corner with his hitting. Matt Williams has shown he’s not afraid to make tough decisions. Look at Det in the pen, or benching Harper. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rendon becomes the regular third baseman THIS YEAR as long as Espi continues his good at bats.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
x-WASHINGTON 87 64 -- 0
ATLANTA 76 76 11.5
MIAMI 74 77 13.0
NEW YORK 73 80 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 70 82 17.5
Through Wednesday's games
x-Clinched division title

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

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ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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