Shortly after announcing that 26-year-old outfielder Justin Maxwell had been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse after failing take advantage of a mid-Spring job opening in right field, the Washington Nationals, and Skipper Jim Riggleman in particular, announced that Ian Desmond's Spring Training efforts had paid off, as the 24-year-old, '04 Expos' 3rd Round pick was named the Nationals' Opening Day shortstop over $8M dollar veteran Cristian Guzman, whose slow recovery from shoulder surgery and slow feet on the field were the cause of some concern since the 32-year-old veteran struggled through the '09 campaign. Desmond hit in 15 of 54 at bats this Spring, (.278 AVG), with 5 doubles, 1 HR and a team-leading 12 RBI's in 20 games after hitting .330 with a .401 OBP and .477 SLG at two stops in the Nats' system last season, and demanding the team's attention with a 21-game run to end the season over which he .280 with a .318 OBP, .561 SLG, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HR's and 12 RBI's after getting called up to DC and making his debut on September 10, 2009 with a HR and 4 RBI's against the Phillies.
SI.com's Jon Heyman actually named Desmond the Nats' Opening Day shortstop in the middle of last week, Tweeting that he'd heard, "...energetic young ian desmond will win #nationals shortstop job...guzman will be utilityman." This morning the news was confirmed in a series of tweets and stories by the Nationals beat writers, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@washingnats), who responded to a question about Guzman's role on the team with a message via Twitter which read, "Guzman will play 2B, SS, 3B and 1B." Don't count Guzman completely out of the picture, however, as MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling (@masnben) quotes the DC Skipper, Mr. Riggleman saying that, "...Desmond will not be a 600-AB shortstop, but he'll get every chance to hold the job," while Guzman will, in fact start the year as, "...a utilityman."
As far back as last September, Mr. Riggleman's been quoted by various sources stating that he'd be perfectly comfortable starting the twenty-ten campaign with Desmond as the Nats' starting shortstop, should Guzman have been unable to fully recover from offseason shoulder surgery, or if he'd been moved to second as had been discussed at one time last Fall, but even with Guzman healthy and able to prove to the team he could play, (and more importantly make the throw from short), Desmond beat out the veteran infielder, who might have had a starting job at second had be been immediately receptive to the team's plans to try him there instead of signing free agent infielder Adam Kennedy to play second base. Of course, whether or not Guzman's shoulder is 100% was called into question by ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, who wrote yesterday, in an article entitled, "Spring Buyers and Sellers", that he thought Guzman, "...still (had) shoulder problems. He's still throwing from a three-quarters slot, at best. He can hit, but he can't throw right now." For the record, however, Mr. Riggleman told MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, as reported, again via Twitter (@masnben), that, "Guzman's shoulder played "very little" into the choice. 'This is one of those moves that will help us now and in the future.'"
• While Desmond was going about earning the starting shortstop job in DC, Justin Maxwell earned his trip to Triple-A Syracuse, hitting in just 5 of 49 at bats, with a double, 1 HR and 4 RBI's over 19 games. With Elijah Dukes' release, the RF job on the roster was up for grabs, but Maxwell was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, going just 2 for 23 at the plate in the wake of the Dukes' news, while Willie Harris, Roger Bernadina, Mike Morse and Willy Taveras have remained alive in the race for the right field job with only Harris separating himself from the pack thus far, though Bernadina has recently begun to turn things around...I like Bernadina better in left or center, where he's played the majority of his time as a pro. In 8 minor league seasons and two stints in DC, Bernadina's played just 23 games total in right, of course, Willie Harris has just 2 games under his belt in RF according to Baseball-Reference.com, and he's the Nationals' Opening Day right fielder, so who knows...
Congratulations to the Ian Desmond, the Future Is Now!!!