The Nationals’ trade of Nyjer Morgan allowed Manager Jim Riggleman to acknowledge what had become
clear as spring training wore on: Second-year shortstop Ian Desmond will lead off for the Nationals to begin the season – a development Desmond said appeals to him.
The Nationals will urge Desmond not to alter his attack at the plate during the switch. Last season, almost of Desmond’s offensive success came while he batted second. He had a .359 on-base percentage in 201 plate appearances batting second compared to a .304 on-base percentage in 140 plate appearances batting eighth.
“I’ve said all the time, I want to be up at the top of the lineup,” Desmond said. “I want to get my at-bats. I feel like the more I’ll come up to the plate, the better I’ll be and I’ll be able to help the team more. There’s people who are okay with having time thinking about things. I need to get out there. If I struggle, I need to go out there and hit more. I don’t want to sit there and think about it. I want the action. I want the action all the time.
Desmond feels comfortable with the responsibility of hitting leadoff and will not change his approach from last season, when he mostly hit eighth or second. Desmond feels that with two hitters who frequently get on base, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, batting behind him, he has less pressure to reach base.
“I’m just trying to get the pitches I can and hit them,” Desmond said. “With Jayson and Ryan hitting behind me, those two guys have .400 on-base percentages. If I can’t get on, I’m pretty sure Jayson is getting to get on. It’s not like I have to get on base every single time. I’m just going to try to have quality at-bats and do the best I can. That’s all the team is asking for.”