The Washington Nationals optioned second baseman Danny Espinosa to the minor leagues last month in the hopes that Espinosa would take the time to get himself right at the plate. Whether it was due to injuries or not, Espinosa’s .158 average was no longer tenable at the major league level.
So they first put him on the disabled list to get his right wrist healthy and, when they were convinced that it was and that the torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder is also not an issue, they opted to keep him at Triple-A to work out of his issues.
Since going down to Triple-A, Espinosa is hitting .094. He has six hits in 64 at-bats, and he has struck out 33 times.
But numbers can be deceiving.
A player like Espinosa, a major leaguer for two-plus seasons, who goes to the minor leagues is there to try things out and work through different options with his swing. So it’s hard to tell just from looking at the numbers how much of the results are because he is struggling and how much of it is because he is trying to implement new things.
In a doubleheader on Tuesday, Espinosa went 0-for-8, but he only struck out once. If what he’s working on is putting the ball in play, it’s tough to tell from the numbers, then, if that was a good day or a bad one with regard to what his goal is at this point in time.
Manager Davey Johnson was asked about Espinosa on Wednesday, and he gave fairly expansive answers about him.
Here’s some of what he had to say:
“I’ve been reading the reports on him every day and occasionally looking at some video. Yesterday, I didn’t make the national anthem, because he was coming up live on my streaming computer from Rochester. I saw his approach. He’s changed a little bit in his approach. He’s still trying to hit the ball hard, every swing was pretty hard. I think his thing is more mental approach.
“I think he’s got a misguided opinion that it’s OK if you hit .220 and hit 20 home runs. He has the talent to be a real good hitter, put the ball in play. It’s kind of like playing golf. You want to learn to hit the fairways and greens before you try to hit it 300 yards in the woods. He’s a very motivated, very driven young man, and he’ll get it. But he’s also hard-headed. He reminds me a lot of myself. But he’ll get it.”
Asked about how deceptive those numbers could be, or if they are a good indication of how he’s doing, Johnson expanded again.
“Mechanics and stuff like that, you work on your stroke, and he worked on his stroke in spring training and I thought he was in a real good place, both right-handed and left. And then you forget about it. The job is to go out there and time the baseball. If you time the baseball, your stroke will be good. And if you don’t, your stroke will be bad.
“I think he gets wrapped up into thinking too much about technique and not enough about just seeing the baseball, timing it and hitting it on the button. He used to do that very well from the right side. And then I saw him in the spring start doing that from the left. Forget all the mechanics, and forget about the stroke. Just go out there and look for the ball and hit it. Time it and hit it out front with extension. You don’t have to swing hard. Just 80 percent, and you’ll have 100 percent timing. That’s what Ted Williams said. But he’s got a ton of ability, and he’s going through an awful tough time. But he’s strong. He’ll come out of it better.”
Johnson reiterated that the team feels Espinosa is healthy, and he also said without hesitation that he expects Espinosa to return to the major leagues this season.
“I do,” he said. “I think he’ll get it. He’ll lock in. Sometimes it’s just a little flick of the switch and the light comes on and boom. It’s that simple. He just needs to get his mind concentrating. He thinks about 100 different things. You just need to focus.”