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Fast times at shortstop for Ian Desmond

His first two days as a big league starting shortstop came fast at Ian Desmond. He booted the first ball that was hit to him. He hit the first home run of the Nationals season. Desmond, after two games, leads the Nationals in home runs, strikeouts, RBIs, errors and action.

Desmond is a mature 24, someone who has spent a full quarter of his life as a professional baseball player. But he's still a rookie, still a player trying to find solid footing in the majors.

"This is my first season up in the big leagues," Desmond said. "Things are still a little bit fast. That's, I think, expected. Besides [Jason] Heyward, I don't think anybody comes in here just 100 percent comfortable right off the gate. I think I'll be fine."

Like everything else he's done, Desmond is adjusting fast. In his first at-bat Thursday night, Desmond struck out flailing at a pitch below his knees, his third strikeout of the season. Sitting in the dugout, Willie Harris saw something wrong.

"Throughout spring training, I never saw him swing at the pitches he's been swinging at," Harris said. "The first thing that comes into my mind is, 'He's getting too aggressive.' "

An inning went by, and Harris sidled next Desmond. "Hey, settle down, man," Harris said to Desmond. "Play your game."

"I'm good," Desmond said.

In the third inning, Desmond smoked a 1-0 cutter from Cole Hamels over the 402-foot sign in center field. "A bad cutter," Desmond said. He trotted around the bases, his first homer as a major league regular. When he got back into the dugout, he found Harris and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Willie, I told you I was good," Desmond said.

"Yeah," Harris replied, "you weren't good until I told you."

Both Desmond and Harris laughed.

"The guy's got all the talent in the world," Harris said. "He's got all the skill. He's got it, man. Sometimes he needs somebody like myself or somebody who might see something and say, 'Hey, take a deep breath, calm down, do your thing.' "

"That's what I did," Desmond said later. "I tried to see the ball a little bit deeper. It worked out."

Desmond ripped an RBI double to left in his next at-bat, but his rollercoaster start didn't cease. He struck out in his last two at-bats and he booted another error, a tricky hop to his right, similar to the first error he made. Manager Jim Riggleman defended Desmond, which is what he's got to do and should do. He correctly pointed out that Desmond has been smooth turning double plays. But both plays he missed seemed only a notch or two harder than routine.

"I'm not really going to put too many expectations -- and certainly I'm not going to put any limitations -- on Ian," Riggleman said. "He's playing fine. That's two balls in a row that he's gotten that are just kind of in between hops. Maybe [Omar] Vizquel, Ozzie Smith and those guys, they somehow make that play. But a lot of shortstops won't make that play. He's playing fine. I'm very satisfied with what's going on there."

After the game, Desmond did something else really interesting. A horde of reporters and cameramen and microphones surrounded him at his locker. The first question came -- what about that home run?

"Before I say anything about that, I want to say it was impressive what [Tyler] Walker did tonight," Desmond said. "I think that's going to be overlooked. He went out there and dealt. He gave it to them."

Now, all the time, a pitcher will credit his catcher for some success. A batter may bring up his hitting coach. A rookie shortstop completely redirecting a question and complimenting a middle reliever after a loss? That doesn't happen.

Walker was worthy of praise -- he retired all six batters he faced, striking out three. Later on, after most of the pack had dispersed, I asked Desmond what he was thinking.

"I was just impressed when I was out there," Desmond said. "He was just mowing those guys down. It's important to give teammates credit when credit is due. Unfortunately, we lost. No one came up to him and said, 'Hey, great job.' If we had won that ballgame, he would have been the hero."

Desmond's deflection was jarring in an endearing way. Desmond seemed comfortable enough to dictate the situation, but also aware of his place.

"He knows how good he is," Harris said. "And he doesn't really act like it. He's going to be good, man. He's going to be real good. He's got it."

FROM THE POST
The season started slow for Jason Marquis.

Mike Morse has the hair, the number and the position. Now he wants a career like Jayson Werth's.

Morse also got hurt last night.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nationals are the 18th most valuable team in baseball, but only the Marlins and Red Sox made more profit last season.

Stephen Strasburg's first start, at 2 p.m. Sunday, will be broadcast live on ESPNews. It might be the biggest thing to hit Altoona since the Rotary Holiday Baksetball Tournament.

Another look at Desmond's wild start.

Ryan Howard is killing the Nationals.

As last night showed, there's a big difference between the Nats and Phillies.

Nationals minor league affiliates start their seasons today. The rosters are compiled by one of the best Nats' web sites.

With 12 players who played in the majors last year, Class AAA Syracuse could end a 12-year playoff drought.

Class AA Harrisburg is thinking big, too.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 8, 2010; 8:49 AM ET
 
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Next: Washington Nationals' Thursday lineup

Comments

That Forbes story is going to add napalm to the fire.

Posted by: mojo6 | April 8, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Walker impressed me last night for missing the zone and not pitching to contact. I think he has success because batters look at this big imposing figure on the mound and thenhe uncorks an 81 mph pitch near the zone and their eyes get big and then they swing and miss. I hope Tyler keeps this up all year.

Posted by: markfd | April 8, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Hard not to be frustrated after only two games. Watching Marquis constantly work from behind while being the big arm we signed hurt. The right field hole is glaring; making WH "the man" because he was a super sub and wanted more at bats is ludicrous. After the MLB package preview is over I don't know if I can buy it this year again; how much carnage can we be expected to watch? I've been a supporter of the plan and the direction for awhile but I'm on the verge of becoming the type of fan who just checks the boxscore the next day and goes weeks without seeing the team.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 8, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Bad loss followed by bad loss followed by thunderstorm delay... welcome back to last summer, everybody!

Posted by: Kev29 | April 8, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

So there's two ways to make a lot of money in baseball -- take in a lot of money, or don't spend much. The Marlins do what they do as a despicable business plan. I continue to hope the Nats are not the same.

Posted by: markfromark | April 8, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I'd argue that right now, the Nats are worse to their fans than the Marlins. The Marlins might be cheap, but their scouting is amazing and they offer up a good product more often than not. They could be even more ahead of us in the NL East when they finally start playing in a baseball park.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 8, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Desmond had a couple weak ABs, but the double and home run were crushed. Sorry to see the error at the end, but he looked pretty slick on turning DPs that kept the Nats in the game. Management really needs to stick with him through April at the least to see what he can do.

Posted by: LandoverHillsBoysClub | April 8, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

8 walks. 8. walks. I would rather see Shairon Martis go 6 ER on 8 H, in 4 IP with 2 BB and a HR than Jason F. Marquis.

Posted by: Section506 | April 8, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Good Advice from Harris. I wish the Nationals would watch how some other teams bat, Swisher and Nick Johnson for instance on the Yanks are VERY patient at the plate and it pays off. I cringe when the Nats swing at the first pitch, especially last night when a reliever for the Phils came in. Have patience and wear down the pitcher.... like Harris said, sometimes being too aggressive isn't good.

Posted by: JG55 | April 8, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

...noticed Glenn Gibson is back with the Nat's. I guess the Gibson for Dukes trade didn't work out for either team.

Posted by: 1of9000 | April 8, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Adam Kennedy was the most impressive to me last night. Talk about steady presence. It looked like he was the only one comfortable on that field.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 8, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

That Forbes story is going to add napalm to the fire.
Posted by: mojo6 | April 8, 2010 9:00 AM

....as it should.

Does anyone else notice that when the Nat's are on MASN there's very little paid advertising?

Between innings, there are MASN commercials and Nats commercials and the occasional paid advertisement, but very few.
Are local businesses really unwilling to invest in advertising during Nats games, or is this a Peter Angelos strategy to keep the Nats revenues in check?

As EdDC (and perhaps others) have pointed out, DC is the 8th largest market (in population), but the Nats revenues (as reported by Forbes) are mid-market revenues.

Their revenues are actually solid mid-market, ranking 15th out of 30 and right there with Detroit, Atlanta, Texas, Houston, Seattle and Colorado.

Just one more thing Stan Kasten should be held accountable for. This team has a huge market and has failed to capitalize on it.

The estimated income (aka profit) ranking of 3rd is of course despicable. The Nats have been in the top 3 for each of the last 3 years. That the Lerners are raking in profits while charging MLB prices for a AAA product (and a poorly run stadium) is hard to swallow.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 8, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Are local businesses really unwilling to invest in advertising during Nats games, or is this a Peter Angelos strategy to keep the Nats revenues in check?

Posted by: Sunderland | April 8, 2010 10:35 AM

Umm, have you seen the ratings for the Nationals on MASN? And does the advertising revenue even go to the Nationals - or to Angelos (who gives the Lerners the same lump sum every season - $26 million)?

Posted by: Kev29 | April 8, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I saw that a player for the Giants wore his uniform yesterday and it said "San Francicso," switching the c and the s. Just another example of how these uniform misspellings happen all the time and that they don't reflect at all on the franchise that they happen to. Anybody who kept on calling the team the Natinals last year is an idiot.

Posted by: sweetw | April 8, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I saw that a player for the Giants wore his uniform yesterday and it said "San Francicso," switching the c and the s. Just another example of how these uniform misspellings happen all the time and that they don't reflect at all on the franchise that they happen to. Anybody who kept on calling the team the Natinals last year is an idiot. (I'm looking at you, Wilbon)

Posted by: sweetw | April 8, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"Does anyone else notice that when the Nat's are on MASN there's very little paid advertising?"

Given that most of what paid advertising there is is Just for Men, you should be counting your blessings.

Which one's your favorite? "It's been a while since I needed a tie", "Dad, it's time" or "My husband!"?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 8, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

With an ultra-small-market budget of $61 million, you want the Nats to cover all the positions with major leaguers? And you want two or three decent starting pitchers as well? How do you do that? Get real! Even the great Mike Rizzo can't do all that.

Note: the Nats' payroll is half of the Tigers' payroll, even though DC has a larger metro region than Detroit. KC, Tampa Bay and Cincy have significantly larger payrolls than do the Nats.

Baltimore has a $20 million larger payroll than the Nats. If the Nats had the budget of the O's, they could have added a RF and two more decent starters. And still had money for Chapman.

Baltimore has the nation's 19th largest region. DC region is 8th in the US.

The Nats are promising their remaining fans a better afterlife in the future, like some televangelist. But in this life, in MLB, you have to spend to get a better future.

Posted by: EdDC | April 8, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

That Forbes story is going to add napalm to the fire.

Posted by: mojo6 | April 8, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

It's like I was saying. We don't go to the games to cheer the owners' profits. It's not that we are against profits, but the team is a public trust and they need to treat its fans more respectfully than the way they did with the Opening Day sellout of our fans in favor or Philly and the dollar.

Wish I could upvote sweetw's remark on the Natinals jersey.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | April 8, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I saw that a player for the Giants wore his uniform yesterday and it said "San Francicso," switching the c and the s. Just another example of how these uniform misspellings happen all the time and that they don't reflect at all on the franchise that they happen to. Anybody who kept on calling the team the Natinals last year is an idiot. (I'm looking at you, Wilbon)

Posted by: sweetw | April 8, 2010 10:50 AM
_____________________________________

Don't forget that smug little D-Bag on ESPN, Neil "Evert"

Posted by: TimDz | April 8, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Good luck to Syracuse and Harrisburg this year at the playoffs!

I'm kind of disappointed in the lack high drafted talent at the A level in Potomac other than Norris and Burgess. I was hoping to Strasburg start there. There doesn't seem to be as many high draft picks in Potomac as there was in the previous three years. I find it interesting the last year's 2nd round pick Jeff Kobernus ended up in Hagerstown (low-A) as did Destin Hood and Steve Souza.

I am looking forward to seeing Harrisburg when they play in Bowie on April 12-14th

Go PNats!

Posted by: PNatsFan | April 8, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Wish I could upvote sweetw's remark on the Natinals jersey.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | April 8, 2010 11:01 AM

Add another

Posted by: Kev29 | April 8, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

oh thanks to Brian at Nationals Farm Authority for his Big Board
http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Ah73kg8XyqHodE5pdWhwUjhweHJWbVdjbFdtMEhDUkE&hl=en

http://natsfarm.com/

Posted by: PNatsFan | April 8, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Anybody know if Tim Foli is still with the orginazation,he's no longer the manager of the team's triple A affiliate in Syracuse, last night was another joke, Jason Marquis didn't look like a ML pitcher, at least not to me, we might as well have started Sharon Martis, and Mike Morse? .....................PLEASE!!!! he pulled a calf muscle(what da hell was he doing in spring training?)and he looked like an old washerwoman at the plate. They might not win a game this month,seriously.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 8, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

@dargramps: I believe Foli is still on as an "advisor" to Rizzo.

Posted by: TimDz | April 8, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

surprise, the lerners are filthy rich off of the nats but hold onto their pennies and encourage fans of other teams to make a roadtrip to add to their bottom line instead of investing in their own team's success, I wish it were surprising

Posted by: bford1kb | April 8, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Thanks TimDz; and bford1kb: i said it once and i'll say it again MLB chose the wrong ownership group, the Lerner's, Stank and the rest of this no-nothing bunch could care less, and does anyone know if Elijah Dukes has been picked up by another club or has Rizzo and Riggleman blackballed(pardon the pun) this kid out of baseball.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 8, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I actually find the, um, men's hydraulic assistance commercials more amusing. :-)

Re. Desmond, I could only watch the last hour or so of the game last night due to another commitment, so I just saw the highlights (oh, and one of the strikeouts, I believe).

---

"Does anyone else notice that when the Nat's are on MASN there's very little paid advertising?"

Given that most of what paid advertising there is is Just for Men, you should be counting your blessings.

Which one's your favorite? "It's been a while since I needed a tie", "Dad, it's time" or "My husband!"?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 8, 2010 10:56 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 8, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

dargregmag, no one has picked up Dukes.
Suggesting he was blackballed by the Nats seems a bit overly conspiratorial.

He's available for the league minimum. Anyone can have him. Hard to think teams that like him would hold off because of Rizzo.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 8, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

That doesn't follow. It's happened to other clubs, it will again, but it doesn't happen "all the time," and carelessness *does* reflect badly on the team. Lots of things that do happen all the time still reflect badly on the people who messed up. It's like not getting a call on a pitch an inch outside: if you're Tom Glavine, you get that; Daniel Cabrera, not so much.

************
I saw that a player for the Giants wore his uniform yesterday and it said "San Francicso," switching the c and the s. Just another example of how these uniform misspellings happen all the time and that they don't reflect at all on the franchise that they happen to. Anybody who kept on calling the team the Natinals last year is an idiot. (I'm looking at you, Wilbon)
Posted by: sweetw | April 8, 2010 10:50 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 8, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

And now a random fact about Willie Harris:

You can tell Willie Harris you are good, but you aren't good until Willie Harris tells you you are.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | April 8, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris doesn't tell you you're good. Willie just says, "Let you be good." And you are good.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 8, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

DESMOND THE DESTROYER!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: NatsandSkinsareclassclassclass | April 8, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Ha-ha Sec3 - that is better.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | April 8, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I think of the hydraulic assistance ads as PSAs. And inspirational ones at that.

The most interesting team on the Forbes chart for me was Detroit, which is the only team Forbes thinks lost money. They lost money because the owner decided he was rich and the city was in the dumps so he should subsidize the team till things got better. Sort of the opposite of the Marlin theory of ownership.

Posted by: markfromark | April 8, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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