Coming off a .242/.332/.460 first-half in which he'd hit 15 doubles and 16 HR's and stolen 12 bases in 92 games, inserting himself into the 2011 Rookie of the Year discussion, a confident Danny Espinosa told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, in an article entitled, "Danny Espinosa wants to play all 162", that he wanted to play every game this season:
"'You’re supposed to play all 162, aren’t you?' Espinosa said. 'I want to play in every game. I want to start in every game. I don’t want to miss a single thing. I hate sitting out. I love playing every single day, whether I’m hurt, whether I’m not feeling 100 percent. I want to play.'"
The 24-year-old infielder seems to have hit a wall, however, following up on his best month of the season in June in which he hit six doubles and five home runs while posting a .274/.345/.472 line in 27 games and 119 plate appearances, with three doubles, two home runs, and a .200/.298/.310 slash in July and five doubles, no home runs and a .189/.246/.283 slash in 13 games and 57 plate appearances so far in August.
In an appearance on the MLB Network earlier this month, Espinosa talked again about his desire to play every day and explained, "I don't feel that if I was struggling a day off is really going to do anything for me. I don't think it's going to reset my mind or anything. I think if I got out there and just continue to compete I'm going to be alright."
Espinosa went 0 for 4 last night against the Reds after finishing off the recent road trip by going 3 for 18 in five games against the Cubs and Phillies. When Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson was asked if Espinosa needed a break after he'd committed an error in the second straight game and gone 0 for 4 with 2 K's Saturday night in Washington's loss to Philadelphia, Johnson explained, "It's just part of the game. He's been really pretty good over there, he seems to be getting more comfortable over there. Sometimes he might try to do too much, try to be too quick, but he's doing alright over there."
During his appearance on the MLB Network, Espinosa was asked by Larry Bowa, who was called in to work with Espinosa's double play partner Ian Desmond earlier this season, if anyone had "gotten on" Espinosa, who's struck out 119 times in 120 games this year about shortening up his swing and going the other way when he got to two strikes? "Yeah, I mean they try to teach me to choke up a little bit," Espinosa said, "Which I usually do, I do choke up. Sometimes my timing just gets off. I chase pitches every once in a while, but sometimes my timing gets off and I over-think situations rather than just being ready to see the ball and put it into play."
In spite of his struggles, Espinosa's not likely to sit for any length of time. He's still playing a solid second base, and the Nats' plan all along, as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained before the season started was to take the same patient approach with the second baseman that they did with shortstop Ian Desmond last season:
"There's going to be growing pains, we understand that, and we've told Espinosa exactly what I told Desmond at this time last year, 'You worry about your defense. You worry about preparation for the game, what you do on offense, we're going to be very, very patient with you and we know there's going to be growing pains and we're willing to grind through those.'"
Espinosa will have to grind through his struggles out of the six spot tonight, as the Nats announced that he's been dropped from the two spot where he's spent most of his time recently. Maybe the pressure of hitting behind Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Jayson Werth will refocus the Nats' second baseman.