Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa responded to questions from fans in the first installment of the Curly W Mailbag. Check back later to see who will be participating in the next edition.
Jack from Fall Church, Va.: Other than yourself, who do you think are some of the best second basemen currently in the game?
Danny Espinosa: I would say Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips -- I look at the big bats of other second basemen -- I loved Roberto Alomar when he played. Neil Walker for the Pirates is real good. But if I had to choose one, I'd probably go with Utley.
Josiah from Harrisburg, Va.: What are the 2011 expectations like in the clubhouse? As fans we like what we have with this year's roster and expect to compete every single night.
Espinosa: I feel that we all believe in ourselves and we're going to make big improvements from last year. I think there is going to be a lot of leadership in the clubhouse. There's going to be veteran guys in that clubhouse now who have been on winning teams and can take us in the right direction, and show some of us who haven't always been on a winning team the right way. [They'll] show us how things are done, and show us that losing is not acceptable.
William from Cloverly, Md.: What Major League player, past or present, would you say plays closest to your style?
Espinosa: I'm not going to say that me and Troy Tulowitzki are the same guy, but that's who I always looked up to. Troy went to my college and was the guy I looked up to and wanted to play and carry myself like. I always liked Omar Vizquel a lot -- just the way he played defense. But I'll say that the guy I look up to the most is Troy Tulowitzki.
Dustin from Dale City, Va.: Who has been the most influential player for you since you joined the Major League club last season?
Espinosa: I would say Ian Desmond. He talked to me a lot and helped me. Another guy who helped me a lot -- who isn't with us anymore -- was Adam Kennedy. I thought that he worked with me and Desmond a lot and was very open and taught us things. But as far as on the team currently, I would most likely say Ian Desmond.
Mike from Edenton, N.C.: What team are you looking forward to playing against most this season?
Espinosa: Probably Philadelphia. I had such a good time playing in Philadelphia -- I thought that it was such a great atmosphere. I'm also looking forward to making the trip out to play the Angels because that's my hometown. That would be a lot of fun.
Ken from Apex, N.C.: What specifically are you doing to improve your consistency at the plate? How do you think pitchers are going to attack you this season?
Espinosa: In Puerto Rico, I was trying a lot of different of things. My strikeouts were still not where I wanted them. I was trying different things to get myself to a place where my strikeouts were down. I think just shortening my swing. I get such a long swing sometimes. If I stick with my approach -- I see pitches, I'm not being overly aggressive, I'm not taking every single pitch, and I'm in a comfortable zone -- I get myself in a better place to hit. I'm in better counts. I think that will really help. Also not trying to overswing, just making good contact. I feel that I'm strong enough to drive the ball that I don't have to swing as hard as possible all the time.
[I think pitchers will attack me] probably similar to what they did last year -- they tried to [throw elevated pitches to me]. A lot of pitchers [threw] pretty aggressive at me. They threw fastballs at me. They were making me prove I could hit.
Katie from Washington, D.C.: Where are your favorite places to hang out in D.C.?
Espinosa: I enjoy time with my family. I had my family and girlfriend come in, and we were able to go look at the monuments. I thought that was pretty cool. I haven't really ventured out that much. [Laughing] I had a car for a little bit but I shipped it home right away, so I really couldn't get around too much. I've been to the White House before. I thought that was really interesting. I went and had dinner in the Capitol one night before the season. Those were two pretty fun places to be.
Chris from Vienna, Va.: What have been your biggest challenges in your journey to the big leagues?
Espinosa: Probably just trusting myself. The season is so long and so many people have good intentions on wanting to help you. No one is trying to make you a worse ballplayer, but you have to [take what they are teaching you] and [figure out] what works best for you. You have to believe in yourself and that your talents will take you there. Everyone wants to help you, but you have to find out what really works for you. Also, [you can't] read too much into what people are saying about you, good or bad. You just have to go out there and play. As long as you play the game, things will take care of themselves.
Leonard from Silver Spring, Md.: What is your goal for 2011 as a member of the Nationals?
Espinosa: I want to go out there and play every day. Personally, I want to play every single day and hit for a solid average. That's my biggest thing. I want to hit for a solid average and have a high on-base percentage. For the Nationals, we can set our goals pretty high as a team. I think there are a lot of guys that came in this year -- [combined] with the guys who were already there who have good energy on the field. I believe that when you play with a lot of energy and play hard, it steps up everybody's level of play. So I think just by stepping up everybody's energy, we will have a good season.
Ron from Rockville, Md.: Have you decided on a permanent number? I've heard you were switching from No. 18, but didn't hear what you were switching to. I would like to buy a jersey and want to get the permanent number!
Espinosa: I want to go down to a lower number. I like single-digit numbers. One of our coaches has No. 8, so I might try to go down to No. 4. As of right now, there is nothing permanent.
Jon from Accokeek, Md.: What's been the main focus of your training this offseason? And what are you doing to make sure that you will bring a second Gold Glove to Washington?
Espinosa: My main focus was to get my hand strong again after my surgery. I had to take my time and build up my strength in my hand so I could take the swings I wanted to -- and also to get the strength back in my legs. I pulled a hamstring a while back and I didn't get to lift with my legs like I wanted to last year, so there was a lot of strength I had to build into my legs to get my hamstring strong.
[I just have to] go out there and play defense the way I do every day -- taking my ground balls before the game and pregame batting practice, taking that seriously and getting my work in, and just putting the reps in. Second base is still new to me, but as long as I concentrate and do what I can do -- not try to make my plays look too fancy or try to do too much that's not me -- then I think I could have a real good year fielding.
Tia from Washington, D.C.: Do you think the chemistry between you and Ian Desmond will get stronger this year and beyond? Why? Best of luck this year!
Espinosa: Me and Ian have stayed in touch over the offseason. In fact, I'm going down [for Spring Training] early so he and I can work with [Nationals hitting coach] Rick Eckstein before Spring Training starts, and I'm sure we'll go and lift and take ground balls together as well. I think that we can push each other, and there are probably things in both our games that we could help each other out with. I'm sure he has a lot of insight for me at the big league level, and I think we have a pretty good relationship -- we work well together, we play hard, we're both high-energy guys -- and I think that's only going to continue to grow.
Brian from Dover, Del.: What's more important for you this season -- hitting and on-base percentage or fielding?
Espinosa: Right now, it's fielding. My main priority is to be out there, play hard, have good energy and take care of my defense. Obviously, hitting is very important. We have a lot of bats in our lineup, but right now, playing up the middle, I need to take care of my defense. I'm not worried about my hitting. I think my hitting is going to continue to develop. I think my hitting is going to be just fine.
Jeannette from Fredericksburg, Va.: How is your hand? Will you be OK by the start of Spring Training?
Espinosa: My hand is great! I have more hand strength now than before I broke my hamate bone -- or before we found out it was broken. It's actually very strong. I take swings every day. I have no problems with it. My hand speed feels great and my wrist feels real strong.
Timothy from Centreville, Md.: Do you feel you can hold down the second spot in the batting order and why?
Espinosa: I believe I can hit in the No. 2 hole, but I don't think that's their plan. Being young right now, I think that it will be good [batting] a little lower in the lineup -- around sixth, seventh or eighth. I think wherever they put me, I will be able to handle it and make my adjustments so that I can do well there.
Dustin from Halifx, Nova Scotia: We all know what you can do in the field, but what can we expect to see from you offensively? Where would you prefer to hit in the lineup?
Espinosa: I came up hitting second a lot, third a little bit. Obviously, I'm not going to hit third and I believe that Ian is going to hit second. I know that he did really well at the No. 2 spot last year, so I'm sure that they will put him back there so his numbers can continue to grow. I feel that [batting second] is probably my most comfortable position, but [batting anywhere in the lineup] 1-9 is pretty comfortable with me.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.