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Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman in 'open competition'

Manager Jim Riggleman today offered the clearest proclomation to date that the Nationals will give Ian Desmond, the breakout start of Nationals spring training, the opportunity to beat out incumbent shortstop Cristian Guzman for the starting position.

"i think it's an open competition," Riggleman said. "But they're both such good offensive players that we're finagling a way around for both of them to get a lot of playing time. At this point, we've got two weeks to go. I don't want to get too ahead of myself and get two excited about two weeks of baseball, but Desmond has played great."

Desmond, 24, made his major league debut last season and in 89 plate apperances punched up an .879 OPS and a 128 OPS+. Throughout spring training, he has been perhaps the Nationals' best player, batting .387 with a .441 on-base percentage and a .645 slugging percentage. Despite the small sample size, Desmond has played as if he has moved beyond the minor leagues, where he has played since the then-Expos drafted in the third round in 2004.

Guzman's health concerns allowed Desmond the opportunity to showcase himself. While both tending to his wife as she gave birth and also still building his arm strength after last fall's shoulder surgery, Guzman has only played in five games. In one of his 15 at-bats, he hit a three-run home run. Guzman had only an 83 OPS+ last year, falling well below average largely because of his inability to draw walks.

Today, Desmond is start at shortstop, and tomorrow Guzman will play. "We just want Guzie to keep building arm strength, and we'll see where that takes us," Riggleman said. "I'm glad Guzie hasn't been tested too much. Here pretty soon, I'd like to see one of the plays he has to make. He hasn't had one ball hit to his right."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 19, 2010; 3:54 PM ET
Categories:  Ian Desmond  
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Next: Willie Harris will be the Nationals' opening day right fielder, but then what?


Let the games begin. (Sorry, Guzie.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 19, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Is that supposed to be "finagling" or "finally getting," Adam?



Posted by: JohninMpls | March 19, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Go young, go fresh, go with Guzman off the bench pinch hitting late with a runner in scoring position, 'cause you know he's not going to walk. ID is the future. Guzman is the present, which, in his case, is no better than the past.

Posted by: eyestreet | March 19, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Guzman's a minus fielder with a .307 career OBP. How can there be any downside to starting Desmond?
This is a no brainer, as long as only baseball comes into the decision.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 19, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Are Riggleman and Rizzo on the same page regarding Desmond? Supposedly Rizzo would have him play SS in Syracuse if Guzman wins back the SS job, but I have to think Riggleman wants Desmond in the lineup anywhere, and now that there is an opening in the outfield. . . .

And why would Desmond be in competition for a SS job with RF open? Why not teach him how to play RF? If he "beats out" Guzman, we get an $8M player languishing on the bench.

Posted by: paulkp | March 19, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

How are better long term with Guzman winning this job? The only thing I can think of is he plays enough to get traded. Other than that, we should be playing with '11, '12, '13 in mind and that should have nothing to do with Guzman.

Posted by: ArtMonkToTheSticks | March 19, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

desmond has clearly won this job with last year, guzman's injury and his performance this spring. if he is not the opening day SS, the only reason is $$$. i.e., hoping guzman plays well enough to flip him to a contender to get out from part of his salary, he would likely provide little else in return.

Posted by: DCPowerGator | March 19, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

This is an easy decision. I know we want to flip Guz and everything, but we're not going to get much for him in any scenario. Just let Desmond play. He's a defensive asset even with his periodic concentration lapses, he adds some pop, and he's another base stealing threat. Living with Dunn at 1B sounds much more palatable with Zimm-Desmond-Kennedy at the other three INF spots. We're not good enough not to field our best players, especially when there is no good long term value in it like with Strasburg.

Posted by: autobits | March 19, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

They'll start Guzman probably to try and up his trade value.

At the expense of us, the ticketholders, this year.

Sunderland is so right. What's the downside to just going with Desmond?

Posted by: CJArlington | March 19, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

... Adam Kennedy may or may not be a good pickup for the Nats. But I am reminded that last year, the management alerted Guzzy to the idea that he might have to move to second. Surely that idea can still be made active, and offer the best solution to this dilemma.

Go Nats!!!

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 19, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

The only move Guzman will make is to a team (that he likes) who just lost their SS for an extended period & is ready to make a deal. He's a 10-5 player, so he has the right to refuse a trade.

Posted by: BinM | March 19, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

C'mon people. Think TEAM. What the Nats need is for Guzie to play great. Then trade him for good prospects at the end of July and then start Desmond full time. THINK...we're not going to the playoffs this year. But we can make 2011 a big year. We need some positioning players so let's get Guzzie going and get some players for him. Geez!!!!!! THINK TEAM....LIKE Leonsis's CAPS.

Posted by: eddie5 | March 19, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

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