JUPITER, Fla. — With less than a week of spring training to go, Nationals manager Matt Williams still doesn’t want to name his starting second baseman, saying he wants both Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa to continue competing down to the wire.
“I’m not ready to make that decision yet,” Williams said prior to Friday’s game against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. “Again, we’ve got a week left, and they’ll continue to play and get at-bats. I like what I’ve seen. They’ve both played really well. Competed well.”
Williams praised both Rendon and Espinosa’s performance and approach this spring, factors in the delayed decision.
“I think they’ve both played really well,” he said. “That’s a tough decision for us to make. As you come into spring training as a player, I would imagine you want to make it difficult on the manager to make a decision and for the organization to make that decision. So they’ve both done really, really well. Played well.”
Williams may not be saying publicly who is winning the job, but all indications continue to suggest Rendon will get the nod, with Espinosa serving as the Nationals’ backup infielder.
Among the evidence: Rendon has started eight games at second base this spring, only four at third base; Espinosa has started more games at shortstop (seven) than second base (six).
At the plate, Rendon has enjoyed more success, hitting .344 with a .921 OPS. Espinosa entered Friday’s game hitting .200 with a .507 OPS, but Williams has noted he’s less concerned with the results and more impressed with Espinosa’s hitting approach (cutting down on his swing, looking to go the other way more).
Though it certainly appears Espinosa will make the Opening Day roster, if only as a reserve, Williams isn’t ready to publicly commit to that yet, either.
“I’m not there yet,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s appropriate for either one of the guys. Because coming in, I asked them both to compete, and I asked them to be ready to play every day. And we’ve provided them that. They’ve both got a lot of playing time.
“I don’t want to, at this point, say anything that would jeopardize their competition in their brain. And that’s healthy. It’s good for them to do that. And so at this point, I can’t say. I just want them to finish up spring and continue to work hard. And we’ll make those decisions.”