Nationals Notebook

Ian Desmond hits grand slam, has six RBI in Nationals' loss to Braves

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 6, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. -- After the Washington Nationals surrendered another bushel of runs Friday in an 11-8 loss to the Atlanta Braves, they could take solace in Ian Desmond, whom Manager Jim Riggleman called, "the best player on the field today, really."

Desmond mashed a grand slam, the first Nationals home run this spring, and added a two-run single to finish with six RBI. In the field, he made two diving stops and threw out a runner at home as the starting shortstop, then moved to right field and handled a few routine plays. For a player fighting for a roster spot, it could hardly have been a better audition.

"I'm just doing the best I can," Desmond said. "If they want to take me, then they take me. If not, it's same thing I've been saying. I'm just doing what I can."

Friday's effort came a day after Desmond went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk against Florida. He played in Jupiter, Fla., on Thursday in the split-squad game Riggleman didn't manage. "The comments you heard from people," Riggleman said, "is that he was the best athlete on the field."

The Nats are unsure where Desmond will be playing once the regular season starts, torn between seasoning him as a full-time shortstop in Class AAA Syracuse or letting him join their roster as a utility player. If he continues to play as he has, Riggleman was asked, might Desmond contend with Cristian Guzmán for the starting shortstop position?

"Cristian hasn't played a game yet," Riggleman said. "I don't want to get into that. You just hope that the guys -- Desmond, Cristian, all of them -- just force the action, make us make a competitive, tough decision."

Stammen struggles

Craig Stammen made his first pitching appearance since undergoing surgery last September to remove a bone spur in his right elbow, a rocky outing that left him confident in his health but disappointed in the quality of pitches.

Stammen, competing for a starting spot but also a bullpen candidate, allowed three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings on four hits and a walk. The discomfort he experienced last year decreased his velocity to the mid 80s, but on Friday Stammen hit 93 mph on the stadium radar gun. But he also felt "out of whack" with his mechanics and left his pitches up in the zone.

"First time around," Stammen said, "I guess you can't expect everything to be good." . . .

Josh Willingham, who arrived in Viera on Wednesday after dealing with scare of his newborn son having hard-to-diagnose health problems, said his son will return home from the hospital this weekend and, "he's doing great. It's nice to have him healthy and not worry about your family when you go to work."

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