Ian Desmond's 0 for 4 night in last Thursday's loss to the Tampa Bay Rays left him 9 for 63 in 17 games in June with a double, a home run, one walk and 23 Ks on the month. On the year, Washington's 29-year-old shortstop was left with a .224/.269/.346 line. Nationals' skipper Matt Williams made the decision at that point that Desmond needed a rest, giving him a day off in the series opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
"I hope he rests," Williams told reporters before sitting Desmond for just the second time all season.
"The last day off he had he refused to rest. Took extra batting practice. Back to the grind. I want him to rest, take a blow. He's been an everyday player for a long, long time and things have not been good for him so far this season. There is a bunch of baseball left, so I want him to rest and relax and freshen up a little bit and then get back at it. That's what I hope for him."
Williams was fairly sure that wasn't how the struggling infielder would approach the rest, however.
"It's difficult to do that with him because he's a worker," the second-year skipper explained. "So, I just hope he takes it easy for today, clears out and let's it clear and gets back to work."
In spite of rough first few months this season, defensively early and offensively throughout the first 67 games, Desmond continued to work to turn things around. His attitude through it all?
"Fantastic," Williams said. "There's a lot going on. He is ready to play every single day and eager to play and goes out there with a good attitude every time he takes the field.
"When things aren't going the way you want them to go, sometimes it's good to just hang out, get a day, relax, not do much, get some good treatment, get a nice lift in, whatever he needs to do and then get back to work.
"This game, over the course of 162, is a grind. It's a cliche, but it's really true. So when you're an everyday player and you're trying to fight through something, sometimes it's good to have a day."
Asked if Desmond understood the situation and knew he was just getting a day, Williams explained that they had, of course, discussed the situation.
"Of course I talk to Desi," he said. "We talk all the time. We have to understand that, one, he needs a day, if it turns into two then it turns into two. But he needs some rest. He plays a demanding position every single day and if that's the case then that will be the case, but we talk all the time. He understands what's going on and that he's going to get a day off and we'll see how we go from there."
Desmond got a full day off on Friday, (he'd pinch hit and finished the game the last time he sat), and when the lineup was released for Saturday afternoon's matchup with the Bucs he was originally left out again.
Desmond told reporters that he understood the decision to stick with the lineup that had won the previous night, but he also said he was determined to sort things out.
"It's just rest," Williams said early Saturday afternoon. "It's clear. It's good work, it's all of those things. It's important for him to get back to where he wants to be and if a couple of days does that then at the end of the year, he'll look back and go, 'Maybe that was good.' So, it's never easy to take him out of the lineup, but for the long-term health of our team and his season, and his mentality, I think it's important. It's never easy, but a couple of days will be good for him."
Williams was asked if Desmond actually rested on Friday as he'd hoped he would?
"No," he laughed. "Of course not. No. He came out for early grounders yesterday with the middle infielders and took more during batting practice and took his regular BP. It's difficult. You can't tell him, 'No,' because they're grown men, they can do what they want, but more than anything hopefully it's just a mental rest too where the grind of the game doesn't have to happen that particular day. So, physically it's going to be difficult for him, because he's not built that way, but we'll give him another day today, he's available certainly to come get a big hit for us or whatever it is, but another day of relaxation for him will do him good."
"I'd rather have him in there," Williams said. "The dude has won three straight Silver Sluggers, so he's a pretty darn good player, but as I said, it's important for him, for anybody, if things aren't going well, to take a break and reload and regroup and be ready to go again. It's never easy for anybody, especially somebody built like that. But he'll be ready when that time comes again and fresh and excited about getting back out there."
He had to get ready in a hurry, actually, because Yunel Escobar ended up being scratched with a stomach bug and Desmond ended up starting at short for Max Scherzer's no-hitter, going 1 for 4 with a run scored on Saturday.
He was back in the lineup on Sunday too, with Anthony Rendon getting a rest, but when the lineup for tonight's game was released, Desmond was once again out.
"We didn't get a chance to give him the days off we wanted to give him over the weekend," Williams explained before the series opener with Atlanta, "so coming out of the off-day, it's a chance to give him a couple in a row, so that's why he's not in there tonight."