Second baseman Danny Espinosa played shortstop in college at Long Beach State, and the Nationals kept him at shortstop for the first 259 games of his minor league career. Espinosa moved to second base upon reaching the majors as a September call-up, and he has stayed there since, blocked from short by Ian Desmond.
This spring, Espinosa will appear in a few games at shortstop, probably on road trips when Desmond stays back in Viera. Manager Davey Johnson wants to prepare him in case Desmond gets injured and misses an extended chunk of games.
Johnson stressed the Nationals had no other motivation to give Espinosa a small taste of playing time at shortstop. Desmond’s name surfaced in a few trade rumors last July, and in the past the Nationals considered moving Desmond around the field. But jump to no conclusions based on a few spring games with Espinosa at short.
“I want to see how it affects him mentally to move him for a couple games in the spring. And that’s the only reason,” Johnson said. “With all the speculation I heard over the years about Desi being an outfielder, a second baseman, I wouldn’t want for him to think we’re still revisiting all that.”
Espinosa won’t be the only infielder moving around this spring. Mark DeRosa will play second, third, first and both corner outfield spots. Steve Lombardozzi and Anthony Rendon will both play second, short and third.
Today, Rendon, the sixth overall draft pick in 2011, worked out at second base with Class AAA Syracuse Manager Tony Beasley, focusing on footwork while turning double plays. Rendon primarily played third base in college, but “floated” between positions during practice at Rice and took plenty of grounders at second. Still, Johnson wants him to take ample repetitions before he plays second base in a spring game.
“I told Anthony, ‘You need two or three weeks with me before I even think about you playing over there,’ ” Johnson said. “You can get your legs taken out from underneath you. I’d be hung up if he got hurt playing there.”
Working with Beasley, Rendon seemed to get that lesson. “If you plant, and you’re in the wrong position, you’ll get taken out,” Rendon said. “You really got to be heads up about it around the base.”
One other note: At this time last year, Rendon could barely throw because of a muscle strain in the back of his shoulder. He hasn’t felt any discomfort during his workouts this spring. “I’m back to free and easy,” he said.