MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Baker reiterates Espinosa is his top option at short

Despite slump and strikeout frequency, Nats will keep him in lineup

Baker reiterates Espinosa is his top option at short

WASHINGTON -- Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa is having a hard time at the plate, but Washington is sticking with him.

After hitting .172 and striking out 91 times in 269 plate appearances after the All-Star break, Espinosa got off to a rough start in the postseason. Against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, he struck out three times and left six runners on base.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

However, between Espinosa's still-strong defense, and a dearth of viable alternatives, the Nats won't be making a change. Manager Dusty Baker said as much on Saturday.

Asked why he keeps playing Espinosa, Baker said, "Well, who else do I have? That's my answer. I mean, you can give me somebody better, then I can play somebody instead of him. You know, certain times you have certain people on your team, and that's what you've got. ... My job is to hopefully get the most out of them and make them better."

Baker does have other options to play shortstop, such as Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo and Stephen Drew. Espinosa has an edge on the other three in terms of the glovework, but they can put the bat on the ball better than he can. Additionally, if the Nationals were to move Turner back to the infield, his natural position, they would have to find a replacement for him in center field.

It seems Baker is reluctant to use Drew as a starter.

"Stephen came here as an extra player," Baker said. "You know, he didn't come here as a regular. I don't know if he ... could play as a regular for five, six days in a row without breaking down. Stephen's done a great job for us whenever I call upon him, and he's going to be a big guy in these playoffs, too."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for MLB.com since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.