Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — One of the more fascinating subplots of spring training early next year will be the rehabilitation of Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa.
So far, the Nats have refused to trade Espinosa, a two-year starter who endured a miserable 2013 season in the majors and then Triple-A. It seems unlikely he’d beat out Anthony Rendon for the starting second base job in spring training. But can Espinosa reinvent himself as a utility infielder? For the second time in a week, Rizzo expressed faith in his fallen infielder.
No one knows what to expect from Espinosa in Viera, Fla. when Washington’s players reconvene at spring training in February. He’ll battle for a roster spot. He can play second base or shortstop, where his cannon of an arm plays well. But the Nats might need a little more than that from a utility player, especially if Espinosa’s bat returns close to form and they want to get him added playing time.
Remember, Steve Lombardozzi played second, third and left field the past two seasons as the primary utility player. Espinosa is no outfielder. But can he play third base and help spell Ryan Zimmerman?
“I think we’re covered. I think Danny Espinosa could go and play third base extremely well,” Rizzo said in his daily briefing with reporters at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Monday. “A guy who can play shortstop the way he plays shortstop and a guy who can play second base the way he plays second, I have all the confidence in the world that he can go to third and handle the position defensively.”
Rizzo also noted that if, for some reason, Espinosa struggled with that transition, they could always keep him at second and move Rendon to third, his natural position, in the event of a Zimmerman injury.