Switch-hitting Espinosa to focus on right-handed swing
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals position players had their first practice on Saturday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.
Of the players on the field, Danny Espinosa was closely watched. During batting practice, Espinosa was hitting right-handed exclusively against manager Matt Williams, who throws right-handed.
A switch-hitter since he entered the big leagues in 2010, Espinosa has had much better success from the right side of the plate. During his career, Espinosa has a .271 batting average and a .343 on-base percentage hitting from the right side (against left-handers), as opposed to a .213 batting average and a .284 on-base percentage hitting from the left (against righties).
Espinosa has only had 13 career at-bats against right-handed pitching from the right side of the plate. According to Williams, Espinosa will cut back on his defensive work and spend more time working on right-on-right hitting. Espinosa has to get used to hitting breaking balls from right-handers.
Last year, Espinosa had arguably his best season batting right-handed, hitting .301 with three home runs, 10 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage, but he went 42-for-230 (.183) with 97 strikeouts hitting left-handed.
"You will see him during the course of camp stand [in the bullpen] just to get a feel for the right-on-right breaking ball, to see the ball coming from the other side. He will do a lot of that," Williams said. "It's really important for him to get as many reps and feel as comfortable as he can right-on-right."
Espinosa's days of hitting left-handed aren't exactly over. Williams indicated there could be a situation where Espinosa can't hit right-handed because of an injury and has no choice but to hit left-handed. Espinosa will continue to maintain his swing from the left side.
"The majority of the reps he takes will be righty-righty," Williams said. "… When we get into games, he has to see what that feels like, what that looks like. We'll evaluate, he'll evaluate. It's a constant conversation between all of us and he'll report back to us how he feels and what we could do to try and help him and feel more comfortable."
How did Espinosa take the news about the new approach at the plate?
"I think he took it positively when we explained it to him. He took to it and agreed with the decision," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "If it was certainly just up to him, we may have had more discussions on it. But when we mapped it out for him and explained our position, he thought that was the best way to go."