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Posted at 12:21 PM ET, 03/17/2011

Could Ian Desmond hit leadoff?

The Nationals will head to Orlando tonight to play the Braves, and there’s an interesting twist in their starting lineu
(Jonathan Newton)
p. Nyjer Morgan has played the past couple days and won’t make the trip. Without him, Rick Ankiel will play center and bat second, and shortstop Ian Desmond will leadoff.

You can get in trouble trying to read too much into spring training lineups, but this raises a question: If Rick Ankiel wins the center field competition, will this be how the Nationals’ lineup looks?

Desmond would have to improve his .308 on-base percentage from last season to be an effective leadoff hitter. But a small sample size suggests he could while at the top of a lineup. In 148 plate appearances batting eighth last season, Desmond had a .304 on-base percentage. 201 plate appearances batting second, he had a .359 on-base percentage, 30 points better than a major league average leadoff hitter.

Putting Ankiel behind Desmond and in front of Jayson Werth would also create a nice righty-lefty-righty sequence to start the lineup.

Anyway, that’s just a thought. Here’s the plan for the game tonight, which includes Danny Espinosa and his sore foot staying back in Viera.

Nationals

1. Ian Desmond, SS

2. Rick Ankiel, CF

3. Jayson Werth, RF

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Michael Morse, LF

6. Jerry Hairston, 2B

7. Wilson Ramos, C

8. Brian Bixler, 3B

9. Yunesky Maya, SP

Here are the other major league position players traveling to Orlando:

Jesus Flores

Derek Norris

Chris Marrero

Roger Bernadina

And extra minor league players:

Stephen Lombardozzi

Alex Cintron

Buck Coats

Jesus Valdez

And the relief pitchers:

Collin Balester

Brian Broderick

Todd Coffey

Cole Kimball

Henry Rodriguez

By  |  12:21 PM ET, 03/17/2011

 
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