"There's a few guys on the ballclub that are not doing the things they are capable of doing," Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters last night after the 2-0 loss to LA lefty Clayon Kershaw and the Dodgers. "They've been kind of struggling off and on all year and we just haven't righted the ship yet. That's been an issue. There's progress, the middle of the lineup is doing a lot of good things, but some of the other guys are not doing the things they're capable of doing."
Danny Espinosa had a particularly rough night in Los Angeles on Tuesday, going 0 for 4 with three Ks against Kershaw. The Nats' 26-year-old second baseman now has a .175/.206/.325 line, nine doubles and three home runs in 36 games and 126 plate appearances on the year.
"Danny's best side is right-handed," Johnson added, "And [Kershaw] made some good pitches, but he had some pitches to hit and I think he's just trying to do too much." Espinosa has a career .267/.336/.461 line against left-handed pitchers so far in the majors, but this year he's at .154/.207/.385 in 29 plate appearance from the right side of the plate.
As NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman noted this morning, after last night, Espinosa's, ".531 OPS... ranks 171st out of 175 qualifying major-league hitters." When Davey Johnson was asked last night, however, how long you stick with a player who's struggling at the plate like Espinosa is, the Nats' manager declined to comment. He actually said, as quoted by the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, "'I’m not going to get into that right now.'"
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was willing to discuss Espinosa's situation when he appeared on 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s The Mike Rizzo Show with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier this morning.
"I think that we see the light at the end of the tunnel," the GM said, repeating the phrase from Mr. Rouhier's question, "You know, it's a process of making adjustments and Danny has got to make the adjustment. Left-handed and right-handed. And he brings so much to the table as an all-around player that we're waiting patiently for him to come out of it and to be more consistent, give us more consistent at bats, and his package of speed, power, defense and knowledge of the game is a great package. And once he starts putting it together offensively -- which is often the last phase of a player's entire package to come along -- he's going to be quite a force to deal with."
"But he's an extremely valuable player for us," Rizzo continued, "not only what he gives us defensively at second base, you know, the throwing arm on cutoffs and he's got pop in his bat and he can steal you some bases and he runs well. But he's also a very, very capable defender at shortstop, so he's not only our starting second baseman, but he's our backup shortstop, so that makes him ultra, ultra important and valuable to us."