(Lynne Sladky/AP)

Entering his third full major league season, Desmond felt he had established the currency to ask for his favored number. He chose 20, and did so with a thoughtful purpose: He wanted to honor Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who wore 20 as the first manager in Nationals history and whom Desmond played for in the spring of 2005 as an 18-year-old.

“He was the first one, really, to believe in me and guide me,” Desmond said. “I still stay in touch with him still today. He was a good player. He handled himself right. Just the type of guy he was, not even all the records and all the other stuff, he was a good mentor to me.”

The Nationals have never formally recognized Robinson following his departure from the team at the end of 2006, either inviting him back for an official day or retiring his number. Desmond, one of four Nationals players who has been in the organization since before 2005, when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, would like to see more connection to the past.

“That’d be nice,” Desmond. “I think they should honor him a little. He was the first manager as a National. The kind of means something. My person opinion is, they don’t do enough to pay respect to the Expos. It’s not the same, but I came up as an Expo and I’m still a National. It did kind of carry over the Nationals to the Expos. I’m living proof.”

Danny Espinosa changed his uniform number from 18 to 8. Espinosa had always worn 8 before he reached the majors, but the team issued him 18 last year because bench coach John McLaren wore 8. With McLaren no longer in the dugout, Espinosa made the switch to his desired number.

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