Thursday, May 3, 2012

Espinosa overcomes fear of demotion

US Presswire photo
Danny Espinosa enters tonight's game with a .188 batting average.
Yes, the thought has crossed Danny Espinosa's mind. How could he not worry about the possibility of being sent to the minors the way he's been struggling at the plate this season?

"Oh, I was. I was [defecating] in my pants," the Nationals second baseman said. "I was. I was nervous. I mean, I'm young. Every young player, when you're not doing well, there's always that thought of you could go down.

"That's why I'm not going to sit here and say I'm the guy that thinks I'm invincible and they're not going to ever send me down. Every young player thinks that. I'm not lying. Whether people want to hear that or not, that goes through every young player's head. That went through my head for a few days."

Espinosa spoke confidently about himself this afternoon, despite his .188 batting average, despite his 30 strikeouts (second-most in the National League) and despite the fact there would be some justification for his demotion once Ryan Zimmerman returns from the disabled list next week (with Steve Lombardozzi possibly sliding over from third to second base).

What makes the 25-year-old Espinosa feel more confident about his job status today than he was earlier in the week? A few conversations he had, one with bench coach Randy Knorr, another with shortstop Ian Desmond.

The end result: Espinosa came to the conclusion he had gotten away from his regular approach at the plate, one that saw him take a lot of pitches and battle his way through at-bats instead of trying to muscle the first fastball he saw out of the park.

"My approach at the beginning of the year was I was drawing walks, having long at-bats," he said. "I got away from that. And when I got away from that, I started pulling off the ball, I started swinging through a lot of pitches early in the count, which I wasn't doing early in the season, the first 10 games or so. So I think it's just a matter of, I need to get back to that approach."

Espinosa knows he wasn't hitting the ball all that much earlier in the season. Through his first nine games, his batting average stood at a scant .194. But he drew eight walks, leading to a .350 on-base percentage, and he struck out only eight times.

In 14 games since, Espinosa is hitting a comparable .184, but he's drawn only four walks (resulting in a .241 on-base percentage) while striking out an astounding 22 times.

So Espinosa says he'll step to the plate tonight making a conscious effort to work the count and make better contact, not worrying about driving the ball the way he has been.

"I don't feel that I need to go up there and try to swing hard," he said. "I think I'm strong enough, and I think I have the hand-eye coordination to where I feel if I just stay with my approach that I'm looking for and I use my hands to hit the ball, the rest of my body will be there when the ball comes. And if I get a pitch to drive out, I'll drive it out."

Espinosa continues to have the full support of his manager, who has offered up words of encouragement for a young player who may have been pressing the last few weeks to make something big happen.

"It's a natural tendency," Davey Johnson said. "I just want him to be Danny Espinosa."

That's exactly what Espinosa intends to do when he steps up to bat tonight, and moving forward.

"It's a game of failure. So it doesn't kill me to get out," he said. "It's when I go through a game and I had three or four at-bats with no approach, or lost my approach, that's what ticks me off. ... It's just like some coaches were telling me: A bad plan is better than no plan. So I'm going to go in with a plan that I think works for me, and I'm going to stick with it tonight."


NatsJack in Florida said...

Here's hoping but I've never seen Danny shorten up his stroke from the left side. Hoping he proves me wrong.

fibi said...

There was a bit of talk today about how Davey used Flores as a pinch hitter, leaving no catchers on the bench. Has anybody noticed that with Laroche scratched it looks like Moore is the only infielder on the bench today? My guess is we won't see Moore pinch hit for the pitcher, but he may bat for Ankiel.

alexva said...

Davey Johnson said. "I just want him to be Danny Espinosa."

What he is is a .265 hitter with some pop, good speed and above average defense. He will strike out once every 4-5 times up, he'll walk 10% of the time. While there may be a place for him in this lineup it's not the two hole.

He's one of my favorite players but ultimately either he or Desmond will have to be relegated to a utility role. I'm not sure either is suited for that.

ChiefWJ said...

Upside: Gold glove version of Dan Uggla.

Downside: Syracuse.

Snivius said...

Failed to even move runners over just now. Typical swing-from-the-heels whiff.

Thank goodness for the balk, or the Nats would have come out of the inning empty-handed as usual.

Gonat said...

Mark, thanks for covering this. Your peeps at NatsInsider were speculating on this days ago. Smart group here.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Re: good.

mick said...

I have an off the wall idea that may raise Espi's average 70 points, hee hee. I remember back in 1969, Ted Williams corrected Eddie Brinkman's approach to the ball and Eddie went from a meager 220 hitter to 290 in one season! So... my idea is to hire Fritz from the original Frankenstein movie and have him rob old Ted's grave, then take his corpse to Dr. Henry von Frankenstein, Dr. F will have to re attach old Ted's head to his body but then, after the electoral storm needed to pull this off, after Dr F screams, its alive, its alive, ah ha ha ha, then we take the resurrected Ted to meet Danny and all will be well. I have entirely too much time on my hands, LOL

fibi said...

I am a big Espinosa fan too, but like alexva I see a future where either Desmond or Espinosa becomes a utility guy. Basically, this generation's Jerry Hairston. My sense is that a role change like that usually comes with a change in scenery. Can anyone think of an example where a player was a starter for two or more years, then became a utility guy and stayed with the same organization? I'm discounting players who aged out of playing everyday.

John said...

Johnson: "I just want him to be Danny Espinosa."

Does Danny even know who he is?

How about first admitting you have a hole in your swing and the pitchers have been exploiting it since last year's all-star break? Let's not confuse confidence with denial.

JaneB said...

Gosh, I SO want him to remember himself, and get out of his own way.

NatsJack in Florida said...

John.....from the left side, he has two monstrous holes.

John said...

NatsJack, you're spot on.

I finally figured out who Espinosa the hitter reminds me of: Mark Bellhorn.

Soul Possession, My PFB Hitterish Sofa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...

Me, too.

JaneB said...

Gosh, I SO want him to remember himself, and get out of his own way.
May 03, 2012 8:29 PM

NatsLady said...

Look, right now, Danny is 1/2 a player. But with all the injuries, that's better than nothing, a heck of a lot better than nothing! If all he does is play 2nd base while RZ is out so Lombo can play 3rd, fine, so be it. We have one fine infield and no slouches in the outfield either.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let LaRoche be out only for 2-3 days like Davey said.

natsfan1a said...

Here ya go, Ace.

Tcostant said...

I asked Phil Wood about this last night in the post game, he thinks Moore will go down but he didn't rule out Espinosa either!

NatsFanJim said...

Danny knows he's got a loop in his swing; Derosa told him so in early spring training. So, what's he done about it? He does this for a living -- all the tape for him to see -- all the coaches to assist him. Yet, he is worse than ever. Me thinks he lacks a bit in the brains department: another dumb jock incapable of fixing a well known problem. Send him down.

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