On Espinosa’s strong start to 2014

MIAMI - With Ryan Zimmerman out 4-6 weeks with a fractured right thumb, Danny Espinosa will be getting a good bit of playing time at second base in the near future.

And while Zimmerman will be missed during his absence, the Nationals sure don’t mind having Espinosa in the lineup given the way the 26-year-old is playing right now.

Espinosa is 9-for-26 (.346) with four doubles, a triple, two walks, five strikeouts and a stolen base on the young season. He’s reaching base at a .414 clip and is slugging .577.

Very impressive numbers in general. Even more so when you factor in Espinosa’s struggles in 2013 and what it’s taken for him to get himself back to this point.

“I’m very pleased with the way he’s approaching the game and the way he’s going about it on an everyday basis,” manager Matt Williams said. “He works hard, he’s here early. In recent days, anyway, because of the situation we’re in, he’s had a lot of chance to play. And that work is paying off for him. I’m happy for that.”

Espinosa has been quietly going about his business this season, flying under the radar as he works to refine his approach at the plate and help the team whenever he’s called upon.

“Just try to stay with what I’m doing,” Espinosa said simply. “Stick with my approach and keep doing what I’ve been working on.”

The switch-hitting Espinosa had gotten a handful of plate appearances from the left side of the plate to begin the season, but yesterday, he got two right-handed at-bats against Marlins lefty Brad Hand, and delivered a double and an RBI triple in those two chances.

“Yeah, I’m finally starting to feel better right-handed,” Espinosa said. “Early, I just felt a little off. I’m starting to get my rhythm. So I’m definitely feeling better right-handed now. It’s closer to how my left-handed feels.”

Espinosa worked all spring on being calmer at the plate from the left side, just trying to hit the ball where it’s pitched and not drive it to the pull-side. His swing is a bit longer from the right side, but during his big league career, he’s had more success from the right side.

Espinosa was asked last night about how things are different when he’s hitting left-handed compared to right-handed.

“As far as approach, just seeing the ball and hitting the ball is the same, but I feel that it’s kind of two different hitters when I’m up there,” Espinosa said. “What I try to do, I guess ... I just feel like my stance and everything, I’m just two different hitters.”

Espinosa’s strong play has come at a great time, as the Nats are not only without Zimmerman, but also Wilson Ramos and Denard Span for the time being. The depth of an organization shows itself at times like this, and Espinosa has done well to step in and contribute at a high level with the Nats dealing with some key injuries.

“You never want to lose guys, because it puts you in a situation as a team where you have to make adjustments,” Williams said. “But luckily for us, Anthony (Rendon) has a chance to play third and he’s done it before and done it well. Danny can play in the middle of the diamond, so that’s a luxury that we have. That’s one of the reasons we feel he’s so important to our club, among others.”

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