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Deciding between a trio of infielders, Jim Riggleman isn't stuck in the middle

The revolving middle infield combination is probably the most intriguing developing subplot of the Nationals' young season. The success of rotating Ian Desmond, Adam Kennedy and Cristian Guzman may well hinge of how Manager Jim Riggleman handles the situation.

So far, the players have made it easy on Riggleman, particularly Guzman, who has cheerily embraced a utility role despite his status as the longest-tenured National. It also hasn't hurt that Guzman has started the season 3 for 7 with a double and a triple. On Wednesday, Guzman shagged flies in right hours before the game, trying to take on a new position in his 12th season.

"It's such a plus to be able to have three talented guys for those two positions and have them handle it the way they are," Riggleman said. "I can point to an example or two right now where there are some players who aren't on particular teams because there was no way they were going to handle those roles. These guys have been great to this point."

Tonight, Desmond and Kennedy will form the double-play combination. Tomorrow, Riggleman said, Guzman will start second for the first time this season and give Kennedy his first day off.

The balance of when to give players days off and when to play them can be delicate. On Thursday, Desmond was coming off a game in which he smacked a home run and an RBI, and the next day seemed an ideal opportunity to allow a rookie to build confidence in his hitting. But Guzman had not started, and he had crushed the ball in pinch-hitting roles. So Guzman, the veteran playing good soldier, was rewarded and Desmond, the rookie finding his way, was used as a pinch hitter.

"There's a couple ways to look at it," Riggleman said. "One, it might disrupt him a little bit. But the positive of having all those three of those guys staying sharp, I think, outweighs that. None of them are going to sit enough to get any rust of them, and they're all really good players."

After Guzman plays alongside Desmond tomorrow, he'll "possibly" play right field Sunday, Riggleman said, which would be his first career start in the outfield. Riggleman is somewhat concerned by difficult sun in right field during day games at Citi Field.

Guzman's role Sunday may depend on Mike Morse's health. Morse, who strained his right calf Wednesday and pinch-hit Thursday, is feeling much better, he said, but not yet 100 percent. The injury does not affect him while hitting, which for now makes him a better pinch-hitting candidate than starting outfielder.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 9, 2010; 6:05 PM ET
Categories:  Cristian Guzman , Ian Desmond , middle infield  
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Next: For the Nationals, 'it's nice to have' Adam Dunn at first


Desmond is giving us the good with the bad. He drove in two runs, then failed to come up with a backhand try from the opposing pitcher. The notoriously generous NY scorers gave Pelfrey a hit.

I was taking into account that Olsen was pitching in AAA when deciding he didn't play well today. I do agree that it would be a good consolation if he pitched in the low 90s. In order to take a spot in DC back, though, he will certainly have to improve on the 5.68 ERA in AAA. Statheads may dismiss a pitcher's ERA, but I am not sure that baseball front offices do.


Posted by: kevincostello | April 9, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

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