Here is the way Danny Espinsoa defines a successful at-bat this spring: Put the barrel of the bat on the ball. That’s it. Whether the ball skips on the ground or shoots through the air, whether it finds turf or leather, whether it’s a hit or an out, Espinosa will push it aside. “I can’t just throw where I want it to go,” he said.
Espinosa has been studied in not forcing anything. In trying to put behind his injury-riddled, strikeout-filled, nightmare 2013 season, he has stressed patience and trust in himself, in a swing that last year only let him down. He has swung at fewer bad pitches, and he has fouled away more tough pitches, than last year.
Espinosa is 7 for 33 with two doubles, two walks and seven strikeouts this spring. But both he and the Nationals believe the quality of his at-bats have improved. Thursday afternoon, Espinosa rocketed a single to right field off Max Scherzer for some helpful, though not necessary, positive reinforcement.
“I feel healthy. I feel good. I feel good with my approach,” Espinosa said. “I feel like I’m not swinging at as many bad pitches. I feel like I’m being more patient. I like for me, on paper, it doesn’t necessarily show that I’m having good at-bats. I feel like I am. I feel like I’m making hard contact. That’s my goal. My goal is to keep my game plan simple and hit the ball where it’s pitched. I feel like I’ve done a pretty decent job at that.”
Barring a last-week surprise, Espinosa seems to have locked up a utility infield spot. Anthony Rendon’s solid rookie season and fine spring left Espinosa little room to win the second base job he coveted. But his attitude and improvements have made an impression.
“It’s fantastic,” Williams said. “He’s eager to play every day. It’s really hard to get him out of a ballgame, which is a very good trait to have. Numbers are misleading both ways in spring training. I’m encouraged by the way he’s going about it.”
At times last year, Espinosa said, he would try to pull pitches he should have swatted to the opposite field. He sometimes amped himself up and started his swing too early, and his timing collapsed. He rushed his swing and tried to do too much.
Espinosa has tried to take something off his swing in all situations, but “it’s like you try to calm down even more with two strikes,” he said. “You really calm down, not try to rush and foul pitches off. You still got to make him come to you. I’ve been trying to work that as much as I can. I’ve felt pretty good just trying to stay balanced, stay under control, and just have good at-bats.”
FROM THE POST
He may not like it, but Ross Detwiler relieving is what the Nationals need, Boz writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
MATT WILLIAMS’S QUOTE OF THE DAY
“First and third, nobody out, your [sic] talking about a big inning.”
DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY