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MLB Opening Day 2016: Will Danny Espinosa be the Washington Nationals' Opening Day shortstop?

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Danny Espinosa is not playing games in Space Coast Stadium, where the Washington Nationals' expected Opening Day shortstop has always had trouble picking up pitches because of the batter's eye. Espinosa's struggling at the plate this Spring.

Danny Espinosa's issues with Space Coast Stadium's batter's eye are nothing new...
Danny Espinosa's issues with Space Coast Stadium's batter's eye are nothing new...
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Espinosa hasn't played in a Grapefruit League game since March 20th. He's not going to be playing in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, as a few reports noted this week.

MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported that the problem is an issue with the batter's eye in the Nationals' Spring home.

"[H]e can't see the ball well at Space Coast Stadium, according to manager Dusty Baker," Ladson wrote.

"The main thing is the approach and just trying to get Danny to swing at strikes. Very few guys can hit bad balls and make contact." -Dusty Baker on helping Danny Espinosa get going at the plate

It's not the first time someone has complained about the batter's eye in Space Coast Stadium. Ryan Zimmerman too said it's a legitimate issue:

"If a right-hander is on one side of the mound and he throws, the ball comes outside of the [batter's eye]. Instead of having the [green] wall behind it, there's the sky, which is not conducive to hitting -- a white ball coming out of a light blue sky. That's Spring Training everywhere. There are a lot of fields that way."

Espinosa has been getting at bats in against Nationals' minor leaguers. It isn't the first time he's talked about the problems he has picking up the ball in Viera.

"There’s no backdrop when you hit left-handed," Espinosa told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in 2012.

"You get no hitter’s eye."

As the WaPost writer noted at the time, Espinosa's splits that Spring provided some support for his claims.

"At Space Coast Stadium, Espinosa is hitting .200/.273/.225 with 17 strikeouts in 40 at-bats. On the road, Espinosa is hitting .304/.360/.348 with six strikeouts in 23 at-bats."

Espinosa is 0 for 12 with seven Ks in six games at Space Coast Stadium this Spring, though he's just 3 for 13 on the road thus far, with a home run and three Ks in five games.

Baker was asked after this afternoon's win over the St. Louis Cardinals about the progress he's seen from Espinosa at the plate so far this Spring.

"I've seen some subtle changes in outlook and attitude, where it starts," Baker said. "And hopefully it transfers into changes at the plate. You just don't -- a light doesn't come on suddenly and you just have great understanding, but sometimes it does. So the main thing is the approach and just trying to get Danny to swing at strikes.

"The need of the world is to always have somebody new and sometimes that's counterproductive for the person and then to the team." -Dusty Baker sort of talking about Trea Turner

"Very few guys can hit bad balls and make contact. It's a matter of concentration, relaxation and discipline.

"You want relaxation so you when you get your pitch and concentrate until the point where you don't miss that. That's what puts you in a strikeout situation most of the time.

"Every at bat almost when a guy strikes out, there's usually a bad pitch or two that he swung at in the at bat and he's probably, usually fouled off a pitch that he should have put somewhere in fair territory."

While he's struggling at the plate, Baker said he hasn't seen any signs of an issue with Espinosa's shift back over to short after a few seasons spent mostly at second and in the super-utility role he played last season.

"As a kid he was a shortstop and most of the infielders out there were shortstops," Baker said.

"I think he relishes the challenge of playing shortstop. He has plenty of arm, and he's sure-handed, so I don't think defense is going to be a problem for him at all."

While Espinosa's struggled at the plate, the potential shortstop of the future in D.C., Trea Turner, has impressed this Spring, though he's just 8 for 34 at the plate thus far.

He's also taken five walks and stolen seven bases in seven attempts.

Baker was asked the progress the 22-year-old infielder has made this Spring and the expectations for him this season when he spoke to reporters before this afternoon's game.

"I can't tell you," he said, "because it's not over yet and we're not exactly sure what we're going to do. Let's face it, he hasn't had many minor league at bats. You're reluctant to rush a kid.

"Like Hank Aaron used to always say, he'd rather bring a kid up a month later than a month earlier, because most of these kids have never failed at anything in their entire life, so you'd rather bring them up or have them here killing it than you would start off with them and then they fail and then you've got to send them down and rebuild them back up.

"But you see, the need of the world is to have another Taylor Swift... the need of the world is to always have somebody new and sometimes that's counterproductive for the person and then to the team."

After Turner stole his seventh base of the Spring and his third base in the last four games, Baker did, however, acknowledge the obvious. Turner's speed is a weapon.

"He's an impact player and that's his thing. Speed kills."