Danny Espinosa knew there was a pretty good chance he'd come off the bench in the late innings of Sunday afternoon's game against the Chicago Cubs. He just didn't know it'd be like this.
With Michael A. Taylor moving to centerfield after Denard Span was removed due to back spasms and other options unavailable, Nationals manager Matt Williams needed a left fielder to start the eighth inning in a pinch. Enter Espinosa, the career middle infielder who, aside from shagging a few flyballs in warmups, had never made an appearance in the outfield in an actual game. So all he had as he trotted to left was his limited experience -- and, of course, a new outfielders glove.
"It was Jayson Werth's, I think," Espinosa said. "I don't know."
It was the second time this year that the 28-year-old showed how his athleticism makes him a plug-and-play option seemingly anywhere on the field. Coming into 2015, Espinosa had never played at third base or in the outfield, and now he's done both less than two-and-a-half months into the season. In all, he's played at four different spots.
"We know what he can do," Williams said. "He hasn't had any game situations out there because we have outfielders and he's been playing everyday at his normal position. If need arises, he can certainly play there, he's a good athlete."
He never got a chance to make a defensive putout in the final two innings, but Espinosa spoke afterward on how many adjustments he had to make to get comfortable.
"Just the depth, probably I guess," he said "Just knowing where you are depth-wise, whether you want to be farther back or where you're supposed to be that way. I was in the dugout and [first base and outfield coach] Tony Tarasco was helping me out, so I felt fine."
Versatility aside, Espinosa's quietly had a bounce-back season for the Nats; he's second on the team only to Bryce Harper in both home runs (7) and OPS (.820). And since his role has changed now that everyday second baseman Anthony Rendon has returned to the lineup, he doesn't mind how he finds his way back onto the field.
"I don't care," he said. "Get in the game, get in the game. You know? I enjoy playing up the middle and playing third base. Outfield is completely new for me, so just get in the game and help the team."