WASHINGTON -- With the designated hitter in place against the Orioles on Wednesday, Nationals manager Matt Williams decided to slot third baseman Ryan Zimmerman at DH and put second baseman Danny Espinosa in the lineup. It was Espinosa's first start since June 27 against the Cubs.
Since then, left fielder Bryce Harper was activated from the disabled list, and that meant that Zimmerman went from left field to third base, Anthony Rendon switched from third base to second base and Espinosa was put on the bench.
Williams had told Espinosa about the situation.
"He told me how it was supposed to be at the beginning of the year," Espinosa said. "I understood it. I'm glad the whole team is back and healthy. He said the at-bats would probably come against left-handed pitchers.
But Espinosa was facing Orioles right-hander Bud Norris on Wednesday, and he has been at his worst against right-handed pitching, hitting .196 against them. He is hitting .273 against left-handers.
Being on the bench has not stopped Espinosa from working hard. He often works with hitting coach Rick Schu before games and does other things like take ground balls and lift weights.
"Obviously, the in-game routine is completely different as far as trying to get through the cages and warm up off the [hitting] machine -- have someone throw to you, staying loose and stretched in case you pinch-run," Espinosa said. "It's a little bit of a different routine -- trying to see velocity, hitting guys who are throwing batting practice from shorter distances. Trying to see more speed, just to see that your timing is still there. It's not the same as the game, but little things like that, kind of stay on it."
Williams said he feels for Espinosa being on the bench. Williams brought up that Espinosa brings a lot to the table.
"For us as a team, he played very well," Williams said about Espinosa. "I'm sure his numbers aren't what he wants them to be. We encourage him as much as we can. He understands his value for us.
"So it's hard when you play all the time and all of a sudden it's not happening. But he works, and that is a testament to his work ethic and desire to play every day, his desire to help us win. Any time I can get him in there, I want to get him in there. He plays such great defense, he has power. He makes things happen. When he gets on base, he brings a lot of things to the table."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.