As Manager Davey Johnson watches Nationals hitters hone their strokes in batting practice and their approach at the plate during games, he feels at ease except in one case. At the end of last season, Johnson had grown confident in Ian Desmond’s swing and his aggression in the box. This spring, Johnson has seen a difference he doesn’t like.
“The only guy I’m a little concerned with is Desi,” Johnson said. “He was a guy that was at the point where I really loved him. And now he’s got some new ideas and I’ve got to get in his head and see what he’s thinking.”
Desmond entered Saturday with one hit, a double, in 14 at-bats, and against the Mets today he went 1 for 3.
“He’s spread out a little bit more and he’s hitting a little more in a crouch,” Johnson said. “Some big changes from the way he finished. … I don’t know what book he read on hitting but he’s picked up some designs and his approach is different than what it was last year. I’m going to work a little bit with Desi and see where he’s coming from on that. I’ve basically let him do what he wants to do and very little coaching.”
Johnson planned to speak more with Desmond today, working closely with him to adjust his new stance and return to something more like he used at the end of last year. In the final 44 games of 2011, Desmond hit .314/.352/.443.
Johnson plans to work closely with Danny Espinosa to refine his left-handed swing. Espinosa, a switch-hitter, hit .283/.361/.496 last year from the right side and .223/.314/.393 batting left-handed. Espinosa actually hit better from the left side in the minor leagues, but major league pitchers exploited him last year.
“He’ll be my pet project to get him as consistent from the left as I know he has been in the minor leagues,” Johnson said. “But there was a drop off at the major league level. I thought his swing from the left side was a little long.”
Earlier this spring, veteran Mark DeRosa, already among the most-respected figures in the Nationals’ clubhouse, approached Espinosa and told him, “You’ve got a little loop in your left-handed swing.” Since Espinosa heard that, Johnson has already seen improvement.
“He’s been a quick study,” Johnson said. “He’s been swinging the bat equally well now from both sides. Those are the kind of things I’m seeing, I’m looking at, that I feel when you’re doing that at this early in the stag of the spring it bodes well for the coming year.”