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Washington Nationals: Syracuse For Ian Desmond? Or A Utility Role?

Washington Nationals' manager Jim Riggleman has said all winter that he'd be alright with Ian Desmond starting at short in 2010. Saturday night that message changed a little. Following Thursday's signing of free agent second baseman Adam Kennedy, Desmond seemed destined to start the twenty-ten campaign in Triple-A Syracuse, but according to's Bill Ladson, Mr. Riggleman believes, as he's quoted stating in a new article entitled, "Desmond may play utility role for Nats," that the 24-year-old '04 Expos' 3rd Round draft pick could become, " all-purpose utility man -- playing all three outfield positions, shortstop and second base," if Cristian Guzman is healthy enough following surgery on his right shoulder and persistent issues with his feet to come back and play short alongside Kennedy at second. 

So what's better for Desmond? Playing short every day against Triple-A competition and coming up later in the season to officially replace Cristian Guzman, who I'm guessing won't be back in 2011, or does Desmond stay in DC and share infield duties while filling in in the OF whenever necessary? Desmond, of course, has the right attitude as he tells Mr. Ladson that he'll do, "Anything I can do to help the team win -- if that situation (playing a utility role) comes about -- I will be more than willing to do it." Just like Collin Balester and Craig Stammen both said earlier this winter that they'd be willing to pitch out of the bullpen if necessary, I'm sure any of these players will do anything they're asked if it means remaining in the majors. Is it best for Desmond's development? Mr. Ladson notes that he hasn't played the OF on a "regular basis" since high school...but he did play right field last September against the New York Mets when he was asked to...

I remember that game...

Reprinted from Sunday September 20th Postgame Report:

• Saturday September 19, 2009: 12:36 pm EST - RoscoeNats - Citing Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's "Lineups with a little surprise":

ROSCOEtheNATSfan: "From NJ, Dez in RF:

  1. Willie Harris - CF
  2. Cristian Guzman - SS
  3. Ryan Zimmerman- 3B
  4. Adam Dunn - 1B
  5. Josh Willingham - LF
  6. Pete Orr - 2B
  7. Ian Desmond - RF
  8. Josh Bard - C
  9. John "Cool Hand" Lannan - Eating 40 Eggs, (I mean SP)

– "...speechless..." - cat daddy3000 

– "Desmond In What??? Riggles!!!!" - Ed Chigliak

– "I'd like to experiment with Riggles coaching third in Kansas City" - cat daddy3000.

– "Is there something wrong with Dukes?" - Ed Chigliak

– "Orr has played RF before, what gives?" - RoscoeNats

It's frustrating when you see how a game's going to be decided the moment you look at the starting lineup. That's not to say that I, or anyone else here at knew that David Wright would double over Ian Desmond's head in right field in the seventh and then score the winning run when Jeff Francoeur followed with the second-straight two-bagger off DC lefty John Lannan, but our immediate reactions upon seeing the starters' names posted pretty much says it all...

• Why did Riggleman start Desmond in right?

..."RoscoeNats" noted that MASN Pregame Host Ray Knight didn't like the idea of Desmond in right, and, if you didn't guess, the "surprise" Washington Post writer Chico Harlan referred to in the title of his post, was the fact that Desmond would be starting in right, and immediately after putting up the lineup, Mr. Harlan wrote, "Check out that lineup; It's not a misprint." DC Manager Jim Riggleman explained the thinking behind starting Desmond, (who had never played the outfield professionally), in right field to Mr. Harlan in the article:

"Q: Why is Ian Desmond playing right field today?

"Well, a couple things. One, indirectly, it's trying to get Pete Orr in the ballgame. Tomorrow Maine is pitching; lefties have had a real hard time with him, so I'm trying to keep Pete a little bit sharp, play him today and Guzy today. So to keep Ian in there, it pretty much had to be right field today. I talked to Elijah some time ago about, he's pretty much going to be playing three out of four days with a day off. Today's the day off."

So they wanted to see Desmond get some at bats I guess, since he's not being considered as an outfielder as far as I know, but then why leave him out there late in a close game, (tied 2-2 in the 7th) and risk having a young kid make a costly error? Here's DC Manager Jim Riggleman's late game thinking according to Washington Post writer Chico Harlan in his postgame report entitled, "Mets 3, Nats 2":

"Had the Nationals taken the lead in the top of the seventh, Riggleman actually planned to switch Desmond to second base, placing Pete Orr on the bench and sending Elijah Dukes to right. But with the game tied, he wanted to keep Orr's left-handed bat in the lineup, so he stuck with Desmond in right."

I guess Riggleman's a real BIG fan of Pete Orr. So Pete Orr goes 0 for 4 with a K and 2 LOB, Desmond goes 0 for 4 and makes a game-changing mistake in a position he's NEVER PLAYED PROFESSIONALLY BEFORE and it directly results in the winning run crossing..."

• (ed. note - "I was angry. I'm going to go ahead and vote for Desmond playing shortstop on a full-time basis in Syracuse...I know you can't decide what Desmond can do defensively based upon one game's result, but if Desmond's the short-term shortstop of the future and Guzman's still under contract for a year, wouldn't you be better off developing Desmond's skills at short or second at least if you think Danny Espinosa's even close to the majors. I'd even go for Desmond just splitting time at short and second in an infield time-share, but the OF? Please no. What does that mean for Willie Harris? Isn't that his role in the outfield? Keep Desmond in the infield...")