Espinosa regaining hand strength, will be 100 percent for Viera

Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa told me on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. that his hand is healing well from hamate surgery and he will be good to go for next month's spring training. He says injured players are expected to report to Viera, Fla., on Feb.13.

"I am working out," Espinosa said. "It has gone really well. I have progressed very quickly. I really like where I am at (with the recovery from surgery). My scar has healed great. My hand strength is higher than it was when I was playing in D.C. and Puerto Rico. It feels great. I am hitting off the tee and getting ready. I am doing a lot of running. My strength is there."

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Espinosa made a quick ascent through the minor leagues last summer then announced his arrival to the big leagues with authority, smacking three homers and 10 RBIs in his first five games as a National.

Despite playing second base almost exclusively in September with the Nationals, Espinosa doesn't believe he is guaranteed the job just by showing up in Florida next month. He is expected to be Washington's starting second baseman in 2011.

"I don't feel like I have the job won out right now," Espinosa said. "I feel like I need to go out there and win the position. I feel like I need to prove to them I can play at the big league level. Right now, I feel good and I feel like I will be given a great opportunity. I want to do everything I can so they keep me up there."

Espinosa felt it was a great idea to play in Puerto Rico once the season ended. He feels the extra games really benefited his swing and plate mechanics.

"I thought it was important for me to go out there and get some extra at bats," Espinosa said. "I think the extra games will really get me ready and prepared for a longer season. It was good to go out there and have to work with different umpires and see a different style of game. It really helped me."

Espinosa was thrilled to hear about the Nats' offseason signings, including Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche.

"I thought it was great," Espinosa said. "It brings in some guys that have been on winning teams and guys that will help us a lot. It will give (Ryan) Zimmerman some backup as far as protection (in the lineup). They bring a lot of experience to this team, experience that we really need."

Espinosa hasn't thought about where he might hit in the lineup next season or beyond. He just wants to make sure he is in the lineup.

"I don't know what kind of hitter I am truly right now," Espinosa said. "I feel like I have power to be in the middle of the order, but I don't believe that I am a true No. 3 or No. 4 hitter. I think I could really do well at No. 5 or No. 6 and get on base, drive in runs and steal bases. I think I can do a good job in the leadoff spot as I continue to progress in my career and I see pitching more. I realize what I can do against different guys and learn myself better as a hitter."

Espinosa roomed with Nats prospect Chris Marrero in the Puerto Rican winter league and they both played well and put up solid numbers. Espinosa batted 281 with six doubles, three triples, two homers and eight RBIs. Marrero added a .306 average with four doubles, two homers and 16 RBIs.

"I believe that part of the reason why we did well (in Puerto Rico) was because Chris and I stayed to our in-season program: our weight lifting, conditioning and our routines, as much as a routine that we could get into," Espinosa said.
"We didn't have batting cages down there, so you do as much as you can to get ready for the game and get ready for batting practice. So we stayed with our routine and it kept our strength and it kept our ability up."

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