“I normally wouldn’t have played him today,” Johnson said. “But I wanted him to get a hit so he could sleep.”

In his first three games of spring, Desmond had gone 0 for 9 while making three errors in the field. Johnson worried that Desmond had been “taking his at-bats to the field” – losing focus on defense while thinking about his swing. Johnson wanted Desmond to relax, and also to scrap a new stance he had developed over the winter.

“He’s been swinging the bat better in BP,” Johnson said. “He came in this spring with some new ideas, some new things that I didn’t much like. The last couple days, he’s been a lot better. Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

Johnson wanted Desmond to keep the same approach he had at the end of the last year, when he hit .314/.352/.443 over the season’s final 44 games. Johnson felt Desmond had the right intention with his offseason changes, but he also worried Desmond put too much pressure on himself.

“He’s just a grinder,” Johnson said. “He’s going to be as good as he can be.”

Here are a couple other notes from the game:

>>> Bryce Harper did not play for the first time, not surprising given his heavy recent workload. Harper started against the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Monday night, then turned around and played all nine innings the next day in Lake Buena Vista. Even after not playing, Harper is still tied for the team lead with Chad Tracy at 12 plate appearances. “There are some other guys I wanted to get some at-bats,” Johnson said.

>>> The game ended in a 3-3 tie after mammoth backup Carlos Maldonado drilled a two-run, opposite-field home run off Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn. After the sixth inning, Johnson talked to home plate umpire Gary Cedarstrom and told him he only had enough pitchers for nine innings. Cedarstrom relayed the message to Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny, who was fine with not playing extra innings.

>>> The biggest national headline from Wednesday’s game was the maiden major league start of Cardinals top prospect Shelby Miller. Afterward, Johnson gave this ringing endorsement: “I thought he was all right. A little bit shaky. I like my guy better.”


Adam LaRoche is almost back from the injury that ruined his first year with the Nationals.


Zimmermann completes first rotation

Game 5 live blog

DeRosa’s meaningful homer

LaRoche faces minor leaguers

Werth swinging at the first pitch