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Nationals Notebook

Ian Desmond Has a Bright Future but No Defined Position

Nationals rookie Ian Desmond figures to be part of the team's future, but his athleticism and versatility has the organization unsure of where to play him.
Nationals rookie Ian Desmond figures to be part of the team's future, but his athleticism and versatility has the organization unsure of where to play him. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Washington Nationals' view towards prospect Ian Desmond's future continued to evolve Tuesday, as Desmond started at second base against the Los Angeles Dodgers -- the fourth consecutive game in which he has started at a different position than the game before -- and interim manager Jim Riggleman suggested his future lies as an outfielder, or even a super-utility player with no set position.

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"That's going to be an interesting call there," Riggleman said when asked about Desmond's future position. "He's just such a good athlete. I keep hearing from people that say his best position on the field might be center field. . . . Ian's versatility is going to really give the club a lot of options, [in] that he can play several places on the field and contribute in a lot of ways.

"He's a ballplayer. He's not necessarily a second baseman or a shortstop. He's going to be whatever we need him to be, and I think he's going to be a good one."

Desmond, who turned 24 on Sunday, was hitting .375 with a 1.037 OPS in eight games since being called up, after having a breakout season in the minors (.330 combined between Class AA and AAA).

Though Desmond has been a shortstop his entire professional career -- with a propensity for both dazzling plays and errors in bunches -- the Nationals, influenced largely by the presence of veteran Cristian Guzm?n, have used Desmond at second base in five games, including Tuesday night, with one additional start in right field. Still, in previous comments to the media, both Riggleman and General Manager Mike Rizzo have said they view Desmond's future at shortstop.

In bringing up the possibility of Desmond having a future as an outfielder, Riggleman cited his athleticism, his ability to track down pop-ups in the shallow outfield and the fact scouts who saw Desmond play the outfield as a high schooler gave him positive marks.

"It's been a few years since he's been out there," Riggleman said, "but I think his instincts would allow him to play out there. But certainly, our first priority is to use him in the infield."

Desmond is expected to play in the Dominican winter league.


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