Riggleman said he talked to both Espinosa and Ian Desmond about hitting leadoff in spring training, and the manager said both players wanted to hit there. But with Desmond sitting at 0-for-13 this year, Riggleman is making the switch both to try something else at the top of the lineup and take some pressure off the shortstop.
Both players are off today, but when they return to the lineup tomorrow, Desmond will bat in Espinosa's normal spot, hitting seventh on Wednesday.
"When we made the trade with Nyjer Morgan, we discussed the leadoff spot, and we kind of put a blank at one and seven, with both names off to the side, just kind of using them interchangeably," Riggleman said. "We'll try to get Ian away from the feeling of, he's got to get it started for us, walking up to the plate as the first guy. I've kind of had a little luck with that through the years with some players if they were struggling with that."
Part of Riggleman's comfort with Espinosa in the leadoff spot comes from the fact the second baseman has hit there in the minors; he had a career .365 on-base percentage in the minors, and is off to a 4-for-9 start this season.
The Nationals plan to go back and forth between Desmond and Espinosa in the spot, but Espinosa seems like the choice right now.
"Whichever one is getting on base a little bit more than the other, is the way we'll go about it," Riggleman said.
For his part, Desmond said Tuesday he wasn't worried about his 0-for-13 start, though he said last week his nerves hadn't helped him at the start of the season. He hit a long fly ball to right in the third game of the season, which was probably his best at-bat of the opening series.
"I think the off-day is going to be good," Desmond said. "I'm going to relax, have a good BP, go in tomorrow feeling fresh and feeling good."
He's only been hitless for three games, but because those three games are at the start of the season, there's more attention paid to his numbers.
Still, the Nationals felt it was worth trying something different at the top of the lineup, at least for now, and Espinosa will be there tomorrow while they try to get Desmond started from the seventh spot.
"I'd rather get it out of the way now. That's why I'm not that worried about," Desmond said. "I don't know if I went 0-for-12 or whatever last year. I might have. I'm not sure. But I don't think I had stretches longer than this, so hopefully I can get it out of the way."