JUPITER, Fla. - Throughout spring training, the Nationals have been operating as if Anthony Rendon will be their starting second baseman.
Rendon got the bulk of the reps at second base early in spring, while Danny Espinosa was often fielding grounders at short, working behind Ian Desmond. This will be Espinosa's 15th game played this spring, and in those 15, he's started at shortstop seven times (including today), second base six times, DH once and came off the bench to play short once.
Rendon, meanwhile, has played in 13 games, with eight starts at second base, four starts at third base and one game where he came off the bench and played third.
While all signs certainly indicate that Rendon will be the Nats' second baseman on opening day, manager Matt Williams isn't prepared to make such an announcement with eight spring training games remaining on the schedule.
"I'm not ready to make that decision yet," Williams said. "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."
Espinosa is hitting .200 (7-for-35) with two doubles, two RBIs, two stolen bases, two walks and seven strikeouts in 35 at-bats this spring, but the Nats continue to say that the numbers don't indicate how well Espinosa has swung the bat. They remain really pleased with his approach, which Williams called "fantastic" yesterday.
That said, when asked if he's willing to declare that Espinosa will definitely make the team in some capacity, Williams again shied away from making an official statement.
"I'm not there yet," Williams 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."
For what it's worth, Rendon's spring numbers have been pretty strong. He's batting .344 (11-for-32) with a homer, two doubles, six RBIs, four walks and 11 strikeouts in 32 at-bats.
"He's played well," Williams said. "So has Danny. I think they've both played really well. 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."
Meanwhile, Williams said that he hopes to get Ryan Zimmerman a start at first base sometime this spring, but that's not a certainty. As Williams had said the other day, he wants Zimmerman to focus on third first and first second. Zimmerman has only appeared in one spring game at first base so far.
Got all that?
Williams arrived at Roger Dean Stadium a bit late today because he stayed back to watch the guys who didn't make the trip here to Jupiter take batting practice and work on defensive drills. That included Zimmerman getting reps at first, where Williams has seen him improve as camp has gone on.
"He's completely comfortable," Williams said. "We worked on the angle of his throws today off the bag and playing deep on a double play ball, so he looks good. He's natural. It's foreign for him, because it's the opposite way. But he's getting the hang of it and he's done fine."