The Nationals placed Desmond on the disabled list with a strained oblique on July 23. They expected him to miss five weeks. But now, about three weeks later, Desmond is swinging without pain and is no longer feeling soreness in his oblique. It is a difficult injury to recover from and can creep back, but Desmond seems to have conquered it.

“He’s had no tenderness in that area, and that’s great,” Johnson said. “So if he continues to go through his workouts, we’ll speed it up.”

Desmond will go through two more workouts tomorrow and Wednesday, and if he comes through without any setbacks the Nationals will move on to the next step. What that is, Johnson wasn’t saying.

“I’ve got a game plan, and I’m not telling you,” Johnson said. “I want to get through these days here.”

Having missed 22 games, Desmond may require a minor league rehab assignment. But Johnson hinted that Desmond may not need to go out, allowing him to return even sooner.

“As long as you’re healthy and your stroke is fine – which his stroke is, absolutely – he’ll catch up pretty quick,” Johnson said. “And I don’t think it’s going to help his timing to be timing guys in Potomac who throw 100 and don’t throw it over. I’ve got a little plan in the back of my mind so we can test it. If we get through Wednesday, I’ll tell you what it is.”

The Nationals have gone 17-5 since Desmond played his last game, but with him back in the fold they would have their most complete lineup of the season.