Ian Desmond talks to kids before Tuesday’s game in street clothes. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Desmond wanted to play in Tuesday’s opening game against the New York Mets, hoping to take some pre-game swings to evaluate how his side felt, but Manager Davey Johnson nixed that and told Desmond to rest again.

“I would just rather err on the cautious side,” Johnson said.

Desmond has been perhaps the Nationals’ most valuable position player this season, playing solid defense, serving as a team leader, enjoying a breakout season at the plate and earning an all-star selection. Before missing Sunday’s game, Desmond had played in every inning of the previous 71 games. Now, he will miss his third straight contest.

In Sunday’s game, Desmond fell to his knees in the batter’s box, grimacing after a swing – even bunting because he wanted to avoid the pain of swinging.

Johnson said Desmond has been receiving treatment, from anti-inflammatory medicine, hot packs and some “science fiction tape” on his painful side, as he put it. Johnson shot down the idea of placing Desmond on the disabled list. He admitted it would be an injury that won’t disappear until the offseason, so the Nationals hope it reaches a point where it isn’t as painful, doesn’t have that “grabbing” feeling and doesn’t tear.

“He feels like it’s going to be something lingering,” Johnson said. “He had it, seems like, two months before the all-star break. He was managing to play through it.”

Desmond is an active and athletic player, tossing his body around the diamond, but it’s not the diving that’s a problem; it’s the twisting while swinging that’s the issue, especially when he tries nto extend his arms trying to drive a ball to right field.

“Being real aggressive with it and something he is going to have to try to play with,” Johnson added.

Desmond’s oblique injury isn’t alone in the Nationals clubhouse this season. Johnson said Tuesday that catcher Jhonatan Solano has been dealing with an oblique injury since he started Sunday’s game and bothered him when he swung.

Infielder Mark DeRosa missed 50 games because of an oblique injury that required surgery. First baseman Adam LaRoche had some pain in his side earlier this season that he said hasn’t entirely disappeared.

“The oblique is in in 2012,” Johnson said. “Everybody seems to have one. I didn’t know that those things were contagious.”

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