LOS ANGELES -- One has to wonder how concerned manager Davey Johnson is about his offense, which ranks 28th in the Major Leagues entering Wednesday's action.
Some of Johnson's hitters look overmatched at the plate, especially outfielder Tyler Moore and second baseman Danny Espinosa, who struck out a combined five times against the Dodgers on Tuesday night.
Moore was one of Washington 's best hitters off the bench last year, but he now has a .145 batting average with one home run.
As for Espinosa, his problems at the plate date to last October, when he went a combined 2-for-24 during the regular season and the postseason. Espinosa has been playing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, but he has not used that as an excuse as to why he is not hitting. Espinosa has a .175 batting average going into Wednesday's action.
Asked why Moore and Espinosa are struggling so badly, Johnson said, "Danny's best side is right-handed. [Left-hander Clayton] Kershaw made some good pitches on him and he had some pitches to hit and I think he is trying to do too much.
"Tyler Moore is in a little bit of a funk, he had been kind of all year. He hasn't been himself. We are going to try to get him more at-bats to get him in a groove."
Hitting coaching Rick Eckstein said that both Moore and Espinosa are missing the fastball.
"They have to get back on the fastball," Eckstein said. "You can't be in between. …. When you are facing guys as tough as Kershaw, you are not going to get too many pitches that are over the heart of the plate. The breaking stuff, when it's down in the zone, it has late sharp bite on it. It's pretty good. You have to get on the fastball. Anytime you are sitting in between, you are late on the heater and early in the off speed. You have to get back on the heater."
Rendon rakes after return to Minors from Nats
HARRISBURG, Penn. -- When the Nationals optioned third baseman Anthony Rendon back to Double-A Harrisburg on May 3, he didn't pout. Instead, he hit.
Following about a two-week stint in the big leagues with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, Rendon returned to the Minors and immediately went on a tear. In his first 11 games back through Tuesday, he is 17-for-39 (.436) with six doubles, two home runs, nine walks and nine RBIs. That earned him Eastern League Player of the Week honors for May 6-12.
"I didn't think that getting sent down was a negative," said Rendon, MLB.com's No. 1 Nationals prospect. "Honestly, not that I didn't care, but I knew my stint wasn't going to be that long under the circumstances, so I wanted to make the best of it while I was there. And then I came back here and kept doing the same thing I was doing."
The 22-year-old is batting .356 with four home runs, 16 RBIs and a 1.105 OPS in 25 games for the Senators this season. Harrisburg manager Matt LeCroy said he saw Rendon begin to click at the plate before his callup.
"Tremendous talent. It's fun to watch," LeCroy said. "I think he's got a little bit more confidence coming down and realizing how difficult the game is up there and then you come down here and it's not as hard. To his credit, he's worked hard, he's developed a routine from Day 1, and it's carried over. He's started seeing the rewards for his work."
The Nationals made it clear that Rendon's first stint with the big club would be temporary when they brought him up to fill in for Zimmerman. Over eight games, he went 6-for-25 (.240) with a double, five walks and a .367 on-base percentage.
Rendon said he did not receive any particular instructions about what to work on before he was sent back. In LeCroy's mind, there isn't much he needs to do, other than gain experience. Injuries have limited the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft to 76 professional games.
"He just needs to play," LeCroy said. "His talent level and skill level is so high so when he does get a chance to go back to the big leagues he's going to be pretty good."
Rendon continues to get a little work at second base in addition to third to increase his versatility. His next chance in Washington may depend on the health of the Major League club, but when that chance arrives, he figures to be more prepared to handle it.
"The more at-bats I get up there the more comfortable I'll feel," Rendon said. "So if it does happen that I go back there, I'll be more comfortable because I've been there before, I'll know my surroundings, I know the situation. I know what to expect."
Prospect Goodwin learns to control aggressiveness
HARRISBURG, Penn. -- Brian Goodwin focuses his game around aggressiveness. The Nationals' No. 2 prospect, playing at Double-A Harrisburg, wants to go all out and take opponents out of their comfort zone with his speed.
Harnessing that aggressiveness may be the key to the 22-year-old center field unlocking his considerable collection of tools.
"Sometimes you have to let stuff come to you. You can't go get it all the time," Goodwin said. "I've had ... a stage where I had to figure that out. I can't always be as aggressive as I want to be."
The Nationals took Goodwin with the 34th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of a Florida junior college. He began last year at the low Class A level and tore through the competition in 58 games with Hagerstown before skipping a level to spend his final 42 contests at Harrisburg.
Now back with the Senators for a second year, Goodwin still is making adjustments to the competition. That aggressiveness had contributed to 47 strikeouts in 38 games, as well as a 50 percent success rate in stolen-base attempts (7-for-14). No longer is pure speed enough.
"I haven't been really held on, focused on as a baserunner by pitchers until I got probably to this level," Goodwin said. "So the games, the repetitions, the more I do, if I continue to do it over and over, you get a little comfortable, and that's what it takes. It's definitely been a learning a process. It's something I continue to work on."
Goodwin smacked his third home run of the season on Tuesday and is hitting .258 with a .773 OPS . His 6-for-44 performance against left-handed pitchers has held down his overall numbers.
At the same time, manager Matt LeCroy sees a player with "off the charts" athleticism, who is beginning to make the necessary adjustments. The coaching staff is working with Goodwin on his two-strike approach, having him watch Nationals center fielder Denard Span to see what it takes to be an effective leadoff man.
"It's just a matter of time. He can throw, he runs really well, he can hit, he's got power, he can drive the ball in the gaps," LeCroy said. "He's got all these great skills, he's just got to put it all together in the field. You see glimpses of it a lot during games. Every day he goes out and plays he's going to learn and get better."
If Goodwin's progression continues, one day soon he might be able to bring his hard-charging style to Washington.
"It's good for the team, gets everyone pumped up, gets the fans pumped," Goodwin said. "They pay to see that. They want to see people being aggressive. I think that's something that comes along with how I play the game."
Perez starts in center as Nats rest Span
LOS ANGELES -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided to give Denard Span the day off on Tuesday and start Eury Perez in center field against the Dodgers.
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw started for the Dodgers and Johnson wanted to give Perez at least one start this week. Perez could be sent back to Triple-A Syracuse once Jayson Werth is taken off the disabled list.
Perez, ranked No. 7 among the team's top prospects, was promoted to the big leagues this past Saturday after Werth was placed on the DL because of a hamstring injury.
Entering Tuesday's action, Perez has appeared in two games and has been hitless in one at-bat. Before the promotion, Perez was having a great year for Syracuse, where he was hitting .346 with six RBI and seven stolen bases.
• Right fielder Jayson Werth, who is on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury, will have a rehab assignment for Class A Advanced Potomac starting Tuesday and will get two at-bats. He will play another game Wednesday and play six innings. Werth will then head to San Diego to join the Nationals. Werth is expected to come off the disabled list on Saturday against the Padres.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.