WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Second baseman Danny Espinosa #18 of the Washington Nationals flips over Miguel Tejada #10 of the San Francisco Giants after forcing him out at second base during the fifth inning at Nationals Park on April 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
On a late September 2010 broadcast of Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio show "Inside Pitch" with Casey Stern and former Nats' GM Jim Bowden, the former D.C. general manager started an interview with then-23-now-24-year-old Nationals' shortstop Danny Espinosa by telling him that his was, in fact, the last contract that Mr. Bowden had negotiated with Espinosa's agent Scott Boras before he stepped down as the Nationals' GM. Mr. Bowden said that the timing of Espinosa's signing (a little over three months after the 2008 Draft in August of '08) was what really allowed him to get to the major leagues on a fairly accelerated pace.
Espinosa played just 275 games over two seasons+ in the Nats' system, putting up a .270/.365/.455 slash line with 51 doubles and 40 HR's in 1205 plate appearances before debuting in the Majors last September. Late last year when Nyjer Morgan was suspended for his role in running a few catchers and instigating a brawl, Espinosa was temporarily inserted in the Nats' leadoff spot with Nationals' Skipper Jim Riggleman saying at the time that he felt comfortable doing so because Espinosa had hit at the top of the order during his time in the Minors. When Ian Desmond struggled leading off this season, the Nats eventually turned to Espinosa again. The GM who drafted him asked Friday, in another MLB Network Radio interview, how Espinosa likes leading off:
Danny Espinosa: "I don't mind it. It's something new, something I'm still working at. I guess throughout my career in the minors I've always been used to hitting with guys on base, so it's a little different leading off innings and settling in, but I don't mind it all. I don't change my approach. I don't change my at bats, so I feel great.
"You have to find the right roles for guys in the lineup," Espinosa said, "and I think once the roles are really settled down, and everyone gets comfortable with what they're supposed to do, and everyone really starts swinging the bat, this lineup's going to be really good. We have a lot of power, a lot of speed, so when we start getting some more guys on base and our big boppers have guys to drive in, you're going to see a lot of runs produced by this team."
The switch to second base for the former Long Beach State University shortstop, who moved over since Ian Desmond was already established at short when Espinosa came up last year, is still a work in progress. "I feel good over there, I feel comfortable, [but] there are still things that I need to get better at. Just the angles on balls, it's just so different from having not played there for a long time. So just the angles on balls, I think some of it is also the pop-ups. The pop-ups now go to the opposite side of me, and I've had a little bit of a hard time with that. I'm starting to get it down a little better, but that's one thing I never thought about was fly balls. It takes me to a different side now..."
Espinosa was only up for a short time last season, but he says the addition of Jayson Werth and other veteran players has made a noticeable impact on the young players on the Nats' major league roster. "He brings the winning attitude. A young guy like myself, Desmond, Drew Storen, we've never been on a team that's won. There's a lot of guys on this team that are young that have never been with a winning organization, so for him to bring an attitude from a winning organization to let everyone know that losing is not acceptable and just to win two or three in a row [isn't] good enough, he lets us know that it's not acceptable, and there's more that can be done so that we can do better.
It's not just Werth, however, according to Espinosa. "There's a huge difference," the second baseman says, "Just the attitude around the clubhouse...I feel like people know their roles, and they accept their roles, and everyone goes out there and they play hard for each other and there's no excuses being made. If you made a mistake, you take ownership of it, and that's a big thing that I see this year with this club. The veteran presence that we have in this clubhouse is awesome. Alex Cora, [Rick] Ankiel and Werth and [Matt] Stairs and [Laynce] Nix, there's a lot of guys that have been around for a while and really help this club and get us going in the right direction."