US Presswire photo
The dark hitter's backdrop at Space Coast Stadium doesn't extend enough to the left.
No, really. That's his story, and he's sticking to it.
"There's just no backdrop," the Nationals second baseman said last night after striking out in his first three plate appearance, giving him 23 strikeouts in only 63 at-bats this spring.
Espinosa isn't the first member of the Nationals roster to mention the poor visibility left-handed hitters face when stepping into the box at Space Coast Stadium. Though there is a seemingly large enough, dark green backdrop behind the center-field fence, it comes to an abrupt end on the left-hand side and makes it appear as though pitches from opposing right-handers are coming right out of the sky (see above photo).
"Where it cuts off right there at the end, it should be farther over," Espinosa said.
It's not an issue for right-handed hitters, because there's a dark-colored billboard just to the right of the batter's eye, offering a better backdrop.
Crazy as it sounds, the stats actually do support the second baseman's claims.
In home games this spring, Espinosa is hitting a meager .200 (8-for-40) with a .273 on-base percentage, .225 slugging percentage and 17 strikeouts. On the road, he's hitting .304 (7-for-23 with a .360 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage and only six strikeouts.
And when you break things down and look only at Espinosa's left-handed at-bats, the disparity is more alarming. When hitting left-handed at Space Coast Stadium this spring, Espinosa is just 3-for-29. Only the road, he's 5-for-17.
"I'm hitting well on the road, and it's just a simple thing: I'm not seeing the ball," he said. "My swing actually feels good. It feels like it's a lot shorter this year. It's just, when you're not picking the ball up and you're guessing ... it's just a battle. I go out there and try to make it better every day, but it is what it is."
Espinosa has had several conversations with Davey Johnson in recent days, and the Nationals manager has assured his young second baseman he's not worried.
"He's going to be fine," Johnson said following last night's game. "He had a great BP today. I like where he's at. He's in a good frame of mind. He's in a good spot. I'm not worried about him."