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Espinosa's evolution makes for tough decision

Espinosa's evolution makes for tough decision

Espinosa's evolution makes for tough decision
WASHINGTON -- As second baseman Danny Espinosa continues to improve as a left-handed hitter, manager Davey Johnson will be faced with an increasingly difficult dilemma when right fielder Jayson Werth returns from injury.

With Werth's return, outfielder Steve Lombardozzi -- who often platoons with Espinosa in the leadoff spot, batting against right-handers -- will likely face limited playing time. And if Espinosa can continue to produce from the left side, Johnson is open to keeping the switch-hitter in the leadoff spot full time.

"He's been working very hard," Johnson said of Espinosa. "His approach now is really consistent with his right side. He's been working on it, and it's been inching better and better. I think he's getting almost to where he needs to be comfortable."

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Espinosa is a .217 career hitter batting left-handed against a right-hander, and a .286 career hitter as a right-handed hitter against a southpaw. He's batting just .202 from the left side this year, but his batting average as a lefty has risen 14 points over the last 22 games.

Werth, who is rehabbing from a fractured left wrist suffered on May 6, is scheduled to return in early August. He has hit only third, fourth or fifth in the Nats' lineup this season, but he hit leadoff in 12 games last season.

The outfielder's .360 career on-base percentage (Espinosa's is .315 and Lombardozzi's is .314) is one thing that compels Johnson to also consider hitting Werth at the top spot.

"Either [Espinosa is] going to be more in that leadoff role or that's something that maybe another guy that gets on base a lot -- maybe Jayson Werth -- could fit when he comes back," Johnson said.

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