Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa has had a difficult May at the plate and is working on adjusting his approach, manager Matt Williams said prior to Monday's series opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park.
Espinosa has just four hits in his last 10 games, going 4-for-36 (.111) since May 11. In the month of May, Espinosa has just nine hits for a .127 batting average. He hit .291 in April and his overall batting average to date is now .212.
He struck out 20 times in April, and has struck out 33 times in May with five games remaining in the month.
Williams has looked to giving guys rest, especially when they get banged up during at-bats. Earlier this season, Espinosa was hit by a pitch on his leg. After the game, he showed us the stitches where the baseball made an imprint on his leg; the knee had swelled up and was red. But Espinosa stayed in that game. Williams sees that kind of attitude from him every game. Now Espinosa is dealing with couple of other hits on his leg while batting.
"I am giving him a little bit of rest here and there," Williams said. "He got hit in the leg in the exact same spot twice, so he is pretty black-and-blue and swollen. So from a physical standpoint, I am doing that.
"He is working on making some adjustments at the plate. So those off-days he is getting are good works days for him to really do a lot of work with (hitting coach) Rick Schu in the cage."
Williams believes one of the reasons for Espinosa's hitting troubles recently is he might be trying too hard to make something positive happen, believing that every pitch looks good enough to go after.
"What I see from Danny is he is a little too aggressive at this point," Williams said. "So he is swinging at some balls that are out of the zone. That is human nature, though, when it is not going good. He knows that he can hit the ball. He knows he has got power. He knows that on any given pitch, it can turn, but he has gotten a little bit too aggressive. So we are trying to zone him back in and get him back on the plate a little bit."
Williams is trying to figure out why Espinosa has gotten into a little bit of a funk at the plate because in spring and in April, Espinosa was raking the ball.
"I don't know why that is because he wasn't that way to start the season," Williams said. "But when it starts to get away from you a little bit, the old adage - you got to swing your way out of it - is true. But you have to do it within the zone and get a good pitch to hit and hit it. He has been a little overaggressive.
"Last time out, he took a called third, but he also swung at a couple of balls in the dirt, so we are trying to zone him back in a little bit."
It is a common tendency. When a hitter is scuffling at the plate, he wants to bear down and attack pitches. To get closer to the action. Williams said, this can unfortunately have the opposite effect on the batter.
"He is an aggressive guy," Williams said. "So anytime it is going the wrong way for hi, he tends to get closer to the plate ,which doesn't allow him to see the ball as long as he wants to see it. That stroke from spring training and early in the season to left center field really doesn't allow him to get that stroke cause he is so close. So he has backed off a little bit, trying to feel that stroke again. That is what he has been working on."