Espinosa will get time at shortstop

Espinosa will get time at shortstop
February 23, 2012, 9:16 pm
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VIERA, Fla. -- Anthony Rendon at second base? Danny Espinosa at shortstop? Steve Lombardozzi at third base? Don't be surprised if you see all of that this spring.

Wanting to prepare themselves in case of injuries, the Nationals plan to have several of their infielders see action at multiple positions during camp and during games once the Grapefruit League opens next weekend.

Perhaps the most intriguing position switch would be Espinosa sliding over from second base to shortstop. The 24-year-old was a top prospect at shortstop at Long Beach State and during his climb up the ladder in the Nationals' farm system. But with Ian Desmond already holding the starting job at the big-league level, Espinosa moved to second base shortly before making his major-league debut in Sept. 2010 and has remained there ever since.

Some have long wondered whether Espinosa would actually be a better defensive shortstop than Desmond, who committed 34 errors as a rookie in 2010 and then 23 more last season. Manager Davey Johnson, though, made it abundantly clear today there is no chance of a permanent switch happening anytime soon.

So why have Espinosa get work at shortstop this spring?

"If something did happen, if Desi got hurt and it was going to be two or three days, Espi would probably be ... the everyday replacement at short," Johnson said. "So I would look at that to see how it affected him mentally to move him for a couple of games in the spring. That's the only reason. I would never have -- with all the speculation I've heard over the years about Desi being an outfieldersecond baseman -- I wouldn't want for him to think we're still revisiting all that."

Johnson has never actually seen Espinosa play shortstop, aside from one Arizona Fall League game on television, so he doesn't even know how the infielder would perform. Johnson also reiterated that Espinosa won't be the only player seeing action at new positions this spring as he seeks to prepare his team for injuries or other emergency situations.

Lombardozzi, predominantly a second baseman throughout his minor-league career, will spend time at both shortstop and third base in the event he makes the Opening Day roster as a utility infielder. Veteran Mark DeRosa will get work at first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield positions.

And Rendon, the former Rice third baseman drafted sixth overall last summer, could get action at both shortstop and second base.

Rendon began working at second base yesterday with Class AAA manager Tony Beasley, getting a tutorial in footwork and turning double plays. Though the 21-year-old played some second base in college, he knows he's not up to professional standards there yet.

"It's footwork, and it's just the fact that it's the other side of the field," he said. "I've been on the left side pretty much my whole life. So transitioning to the right side, it can be a little different. Trying to read the ball coming off the bat, it's going to be a bit of a challenge."

Don't look for Rendon to see game action at second base very soon. Not until Johnson (a former second baseman himself) has had ample opportunity to work with him personally on that side of the infield.

"I told Anthony, you need 2-3 weeks with me before I'd even think about you playing over there," Johnson said. "Because you can get your legs taken out from under you. Then I would be hung up if you got hurt there."