Matt Williams talked at the start of Spring Training about wanting to help shortstop Ian Desmond stay focused on the day-to-day this season instead of thinking big picture as Desmond began what could be his final season with the organization that drafted and developed him.
Though there were rumors of a potential trade this winter as he entered his walk year, Williams said he wanted to help Desmond get past all that.
"I want to free his mind," Williams told reporters. "You talked about him saying he was a little freer coming into camp this year. I'd like to free his mind. Because if I can say, 'Listen, you can only look at today, and when today is over you look at tomorrow and things will work themselves out the way they work themselves out.'"
"I don't want him to worry going into the season, because he'll not be as productive as he wants to be nor as we want him to be. But he's not worried about it at this point. He's here to play and he's here to get ready to be a part of our team this year, a vital part of our team."
Hard as it might be to ignore, Williams said he didn't think Desmond was too focused on the future.
"I don't think he's much thinking about it at this point, he's here to get ready to play and hopefully win us a lot of games."
Coming off a .255/.313/.430, +4.0 fWAR season in 2014 in which he hit 26 doubles and 24 home runs and stole 24 bases, Desmond's 2015 campaign began with a .236/.295/.345 Spring which saw the 29-year-old infielder strike out 22 times in 55 at bats.
But that was just Spring Training.
When the regular season began with Desmond going 0 for 7 in the first two games against the New York Mets, the Nationals' manager told reporters that it was just a timing issue the shortstop would sort out.
"The first two games anyways, his timing is a touch off," Williams said.
"He looks just a touch late to me, so he's working hard on making sure he's on time.
When it's on time, it's special, it's powerful, he can do a lot of things on the baseball field. Like anybody, if he's not on time then you can struggle a little bit. And the guys that we've seen with Bartolo [Colon], great movement, great late movement, and [Jacob] deGrom last night with a really good fastball and an even better one coming today from Matt [Harvey].
"On time is really important, so he's working hard on that, he'll figure it out quickly."
Later that day, Desmond went 2 for 3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored in the finale of the season-opening series.
He went just 1 for 16 over the next four games, however, leaving him 3 for 26 on the year.
More worrisome, however, was the fact that Desmond, who had started slow before, was struggling on the defensive end with six errors in the first ten games.
After Desmond committed his sixth error in a loss in Boston, but went 4 for 12 in the Nats' three-game set in Fenway Park, Williams talked about Desmond's ability to put the errors behind him and stay focused at the plate.
"He does it every day," Williams said. "Regardless of what happens the day before he's got a very short memory, good or bad. And it's about today. It's nice to see him have some success and get some plays and make some plays and get hits. So I think his swing is coming and I think he's getting more and more comfortable in the field as well."
"You have opportunity every day," he continued. "You have opportunity to do something special. And he's a unique player. He's dynamic in a lot of areas of the game.
And so with one swing of the bat, that can turn. One diving play, that can turn. We've also seen him go 60 games without making an error as well. Again, it's a very short memory for him, and he'll be ready to turn this one off and go again tomorrow."
Desmond made errors in back-to-back games against the Phillies on April 17-18th, but has made just one since in 11 games.
Over a ten-game stretch from April 14-24th, he put together a 10-game hit streak, over which he was 17 for 42 (.405/.444/.595) with five doubles and a home run.
Since that streak ended, however, with an 0 for 4 in the series opener with Miami last weekend, Desmond is 0 for his last 26 with four walks and nine Ks, leaving him with a .217/.287/.326 line on the year.
Can he put the errors and the rough first month of the season behind him? He has before...