So... is the "Right Side Only" Danny Espinosa experiment over? To the surprise of many, after he hit from the right side all Spring and against Philadelphia Phillies' lefty Cole Hamels early in last night's game, when the Washington Nationals' utility man stepped to the plate against Philly righty Jeanmar Gomez in the eighth, he did so from the left side of the plate... and promptly doubled to right field to lead off the inning.
Espinosa then scored on an RBI single to center by Nationals' pinch hitter Clint Robinson, providing what looked, for a moment, like an insurance run in what was a 2-0 game in the Nationals' favor at that point.
In his first start of the year, Espinosa went 1 for 4 with the one hit from the left side, a run scored and several impressive throws on defense, relaying a throw in from right to nail Chase Utley at home in the bottom of the first and firing a strike to the plate on a fielder's choice in the eighth to cut down Philly catcher Carlos Ruiz and what would have been the go-ahead run.
It wasn't Espinosa's solid work on the defensive end reporters asked about after the game, however, but the fact that he seemingly abandoned the plan to give up switch-hitting after struggling from the left side of the plate over the last few seasons.
"Well, we've been working on it for some time," Nats' skipper Matt Williams explained when asked last night about Espinosa returning to the left side. "When he plays, we want him to be comfortable. So, first time up there he got himself a ball to hit and hit a double. Good for him. He made a lot of plays tonight, so he played really well."
As Espinosa explained it to reporters, including Washington Times' writer Tom Schad, it's all about being comfortable a the plate.
"You know, I feel like left-handed, I can go up there and compete, and that’s what I feel comfortable with right now," Espinosa said. "It’s just a matter of comfort and getting in there and feeling comfortable and being comfortable in my at-bat, and that’s what I want to do."
It wasn't, however, Espinosa's decision alone, Williams explained.
"It's a mutual decision. We want him to be free of mind when he gets out there. He hit a lot right-handed in Spring, so he has experience doing that, so if he gets a matchup that he feels comfortable with righty-righty he can do that. But tonight he got a good ball to hit and whacked it, and got himself in scoring position for us."
Thus far in his career, the 27-year-old, Nationals' '08 3rd Round pick has a .214/.284/.363 line against right-handed pitching from the left side of the plate, with 57 doubles and 40 HRs in 452 games and 1,452 plate appearances.
Will he go back to switch-hitting full-time going foward? We'll have to wait and see...
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