Espinosa completely retooling at AAA
Updated at 6:45 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA — What had been planned for more than two weeks became official this afternoon: Danny Espinosa was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse, leaving the Nationals' former starting second baseman a full-time minor-leaguer until he proves his bat is big-league-worthy again.
Espinosa had already joined the Syracuse roster last week, but technically he was on a rehab assignment while recovering from a right wrist injury. Today, the Nationals deemed the 26-year-old healthy and activated him off the 15-day disabled list, then immediately optioned him to Class AAA so he can continue to work on his swing in the minors.
"We're trying to tear down his approach and his swing and make some adjustments, and see if we can get back the Danny Espinosa that we saw such good progress in when he first got to the big leagues," general manager Mike Rizzo said.
The Nationals dropped Espinosa from their 25-man roster on June 4, informing the .158-hitting second baseman he was being placed on the DL to let his injured wrist heal, with the understanding he would remain at Syracuse once healthy. Espinosa immediately cleaned out his locker at Nationals Park and hasn't been back since.
In seven rehab games at Class AAA, Espinosa is now 2-for-21 with an RBI, three walks and 14 strikeouts. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts today.
"We need for him to get to a place in his mechanics and his approach that allows him to put the barrel of the bat on the ball and to utilize the other skills that he has: power, speed, defense and that type of thing," Rizzo said. "He has to be more consistent and have an approach that allows him to succeed at this level."
Espinosa has since been replaced at the big-league level by rookie Anthony Rendon. The organization's top prospect, who had only three games of professional experience at second base prior to his promotion, is hitting .395 (17-for-43) with six doubles, a homer, five RBI, three walks and nine strikeouts in 11 games since.
Rizzo, though, insisted Rendon's performance in Washington won't impact the club's eventual plan for Espinosa.
"I think they're independent of each other," he said. "We want Rendon to succeed at this level. We want Danny to get his approach back where he can be a valuable commodity for us up here on the ballclub here."