Slumping Espinosa appears overeager at the plate

Slumping Espinosa appears overeager at the plate

WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa got off to a solid start this season, compiling a .317 batting average through the first 22 games.

Since that point, though, the switch-hitting infielder regressed substantially. Espinosa went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch in the Nationals' 3-2 loss to the Marlins on Monday, dropping his batting average to .209. In the bottom of the ninth inning, manager Matt Williams pinch-hit right-handed-hitting Kevin Frandsen for Espinosa, who is 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts lifetime against Miami closer Steve Cishek.

Meanwhile, Espinosa's 54 strikeouts rank second on the Nationals behind shortstop Ian Desmond, and ninth in the National League. Since May 13, Espinosa is 4-of-38 at the plate -- a .105 average with 17 strikeouts, and the Nats have gone 5-8 during that stretch.

"He's working on making some adjustments," manager Matt Williams said. "He's a little too aggressive at this point. So he's swinging at some balls that are out of the zone."

Espinosa's struggles over the last few weeks have primarily occurred from the left side of the plate. Forty of his strikeouts have come batting left-handed -- a total Williams said is largely a result of his positioning in the batter's box.

The manager said early in the season and during Spring Training, Espinosa was able to extend his arms and drive pitches to left-center field. Lately, though, eagerness at the plate has prevented the second baseman from executing that swing.

"Any time that it is going the wrong way for him, he tends to move closer to the plate, which doesn't allow him to see the ball as long as he wants to see it," Williams said. "He's backed off a little bit and [he's] trying to feel that stroke again. That's what he's been working on."

Williams said Espinosa recently took two pitches off his leg in the same spot, which caused bruising and swelling. As a result, the manager provided the second baseman with two days off out of the last eight days to help with the healing process. During the days off, Espinosa worked with hitting coach Rick Schu.

As with any slump, Williams said Espinosa would have to "swing his way out of it." But the manager also emphasized the importance of swinging at good pitches and avoiding overaggressive decisions.

"That's human nature, though, when it's not going good," Williams said. "He knows that he can hit the ball. He knows that he's got power. He knows that on any given day, he can turn. But he's gotten a little bit too aggressive. So we're trying to zone him back in, get him back on the plate."

Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. He also can be found on Twitter @danielrpopper. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.