For the 46th straight time this season, Ian Desmond‘s name was in the Nationals lineup card as the team’s starting shortstop. He has played 401 1/3 innings of the Nationals’ 408 1/3 innings. He has started every one of the Nationals’ games this season and that’s exactly how he would prefer it. If he’s available and Manager Matt Williams wants him to play, he will.
The Nationals have been forced to lean heavily on several regulars — Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Desmond — while others — Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman — are on the disabled list. Desmond is the only National player to have started every one of their games, and Williams plans to give him rest in the coming days. After starting 42 straight games, Rendon was resting on Tuesday. Williams hopes to get Werth, who has started 45 of the team’s 46 games, a day off this weekend, too.
“It’s hard,” Williams said of Desmond. “He wants to play. He’s a really important part of the team but we have to balance with his health and his long-term health. He’s feeling it. I think they’re all feeling it. That’s why we’re looking to try and get him a day here in the next four games to try to give him some rest.”
Desmond, 28, will do as he is told, but he wants to play every day.
“That’s what I get paid to do,” he said. “I don’t look at it like baseball. I look at it like my job. My mom goes to work and she doesn’t feel good some days or doesn’t have her best some days but she’s gotta go to work. My dad is the same way. They work. That’s why I feel like my obligation to this team and this organization is. If my name is in the lineup card, I’ll go play.”
Desmond’s high school coach taught him a saying — “Play for today” — and he holds that dear. His father died of a heart attack when he was 46.
“Not that I think about it all the time, but it could end,” he said. “I don’t want it to be I didn’t play today on my last day on earth because I wanted to space myself out for a year down the road. I play for today.”
Williams has found a way to get Desmond small breathers in games where the outcome has long been decided. On Tuesday, with the Nationals leading 9-2 after seven innings, Williams double switched Desmond out of the game so he could get a two-inning headstart on rest. Two innings may not be much, but for Desmond it helps.
“You start unwinding from the game a little bit earlier and you start thinking about the next day a little bit earlier,” he said. “Plus it’s good because Zach [Walters] gets to come in and play short and makes two good plays. That builds up confidence for him the next time he gets thrown out there. I don’t mind that at all. I don’t necessarily want to be left off the lineup card to start a game.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Desmond had played in the-13th most innings in baseball. Oddly enough, Rendon, 24, has started one fewer game than Desmond but had amassed one more inning (402 1/3 innings) in the field. Williams has found ways to get Werth rest in games he has started. Werth, 36, will have started all but one of the Nationals’ games this season, but has amassed 366 innings because Williams has substituted him out of games early.