He didn’t actually line up at second base at all.
Instead, Espinosa was set up as the second shortstop to get infield work, backing up Ian Desmond in this morning’s early drills. Anthony Rendon was the top second baseman in the drills - which included bunt plays and standard infield work - with Jeff Kobernus working behind him at that position.
Espinosa did shift over to second base a little bit later in the workout once Rendon moved over to get some reps at third, but Espinosa spent the majority of his time today getting work in at shortstop.
Manager Matt Williams has said that the second base job is an “open competition” between Rendon and Espinosa this spring, which made it surprising to see Espinosa lined up at short today. But Williams said after the workout that there will be days this spring where the coaches want to have Espinosa get the bulk of his reps at short and days where they want him to get the bulk of his reps at second. Apparently. today was just one of the former.
“He’s been playing both positions. And I envision him doing that,” Williams said. “Depending on how his spring goes, but I envision him being able to play short. He’s very good over there and as we talk about it and as we think about it, if there is a situation where Ian needs a day or he’s going to be out for four or five days. You know, he gets hit with a ball or whatever it is, you need somebody that can step in and play that position and play it effectively.
“So he’ll work both places. But today he was at short mostly and he’ll flip-flop back and forth. But he’s a guy that can certainly play it at a very high caliber so we want to make sure that he gets his work there as well.”
Espinosa came up through the minor league ranks as a shortstop and got a good amount of time over there last season once he was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. It’s a position he truly enjoys playing, so he didn’t at all seem to mind the fact that he lined up there for most of the morning today.
“I love it. I love taking my ground balls at short,” Espinosa said. “It’s a fun place to take ground balls because the plays are more challenging. You get to move your feet a little more. You work around balls to a different angle. I love being over there and taking ground balls. I really enjoy it.”
Espinosa said he hasn’t had discussions with Williams or other coaches about how his defensive reps will be split this spring. He’ll likely get some time at third base, a position that the Nats want him to learn in case he ends up on the roster as the utility infielder, but the focus will be on second base and shortstop, keeping him fresh and prepared at both spots.
“They just said, ‘You’re going to get a lot of at-bats,’ and I was going to play a lot at short and second,” Espinosa said. “So I’m guessing it’s gonna be pretty similar, but when Ian has days off or not traveling or something, I’m sure I’ll go play short.”
When you haven’t seen Espinosa play for a while, and particularly when you haven’t seen him play shortstop for a while, you forget just how much of a cannon he has for an arm.
The 26-year-old was whizzing throws across the diamond today, keeping throws on a line from deep in the hole. He ranged far to his right and made a sharp backhanded stab at one point, then gunned a throw to first that was right on the money, prompting one of the coaches watching on to sing the SportsCenter jingle.
Espinosa said the last time he threw with a radar gun pointing at him was when he was 16 or 17. He threw 92 mph back then. I’m guessing it’s even a bit harder now.