Versatile Nats veteran has filled in at various positions
By Brandon Curry
MILWAUKEE -- Nationals utility infielder Danny Espinosa made his first career start at first base Saturday against the Brewers at Miller Park. The move comes from a "function of need," according to manager Matt Williams.
With starting first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day disabled list with left foot plantar fasciitis, the Nats have used a stable of infielders to fill the void. Clint Robinson started there the first two games of the series and Tyler Moore has been considered, but Espinosa's offensive production won him the job for Saturday.
"We want to get his bat in the lineup," Williams said. "The options are first and left. He can play both. It's an opportunity to get in the lineup and continue to swing it."
Espinosa, who has filled in both in the infield and the outfield, was batting .333 (7-for-21) over his past eight games, including three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs. Entering Saturday, he led all National League second basemen in home runs with eight.
The questions aren't about his bat, though, but rather how he will handle himself defensively. Williams wasn't concerned due to Espinosa's experience all around the infield.
"We got some good work in this morning," Williams said. "He understands that side of the infield. He understands the cutoffs, the relays and bunt plays."
The Nats had to make a similar move in 2014 with Zimmerman. The 30-year-old played third base for the first nine seasons of his career, before injuries forced a move to first base.
Williams was able to draw comparisons between getting the two comfortable at first base.
"The thing he's got to think about when he gets over there, same kind of issue we had with Zimmerman, is being the cutoff guy," Williams said. "The cuts and relays are simple over there. The intricacies around the bag are some of the stuff we worked on this morning."
As for Espinosa himself, the move doesn't bother him, according to Williams.
"There's never a hard conversation with Danny," Williams said. "He wants to play."
Brandon Curry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.