As their production at the plate has slipped some of late and their playing time piled up, Nationals Manager Matt Williams said he wants to give off days to both Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth. Desmond has played 16 straight games and Werth has started 15 in a row.
“It’s a long road trip, a very tough couple of games against the Astros, and then all of the expectations of this [Braves] series, so [Desmond is] mentally tired, so to answer your question, he needs a day,” Williams said when asked about Desmond.
Williams gave each of them an off day in early June, but both players have played every day since. In that span, Desmond is hitting .254 (16 for 63) with seven extra-base hits, including three home runs, along with two walks and 23 strikeouts. Werth is hitting .220 (13 for 59) with five extra-base hits but no homers, eight walks and 16 strikeouts.
The Nationals have a seven-game road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago’s Wrigley Field ahead.
“We need to look long and hard about [Desmond] and Jayson,” Williams said. “We’ll spend a couple of hours on the plane talking about that.”
Desmond struck out twice Sunday against the Braves, a day after striking out four times.He has provided a lot of power — his .427 slugging percentage is third-best on the team among regulars — but he also has struck out a team-leading 89 times, third most in baseball. The shortstop has started 73 of the Nationals’ 74 games, most on the team. Despite his offensive ups and downs, Desmond has played stellar defense of late, including a spectacular spinning throw to first base on a groundout.
“I feel great,” Desmond said. “I don’t personally think I need a day off, but I’ll let [Williams] be the judge of that. He’s the boss.”
Werth notched a hit on Sunday but was 1 for 12 in the previous games of the Atlanta series. He has gone hitless in six of the past 10 games. Werth, the oldest regular position player on the team, has started 72 games, the second most on the team. He has dealt with hamstring and groin issues in the past.
Williams and the Nationals seek to balance playing their best lineup with the long-term health of two important players. Early injuries to other players forced Desmond and Werth to play every day, but now there are options.
With Ryan Zimmerman back and playing left field, there is a way to get Werth rest by starting Nate McLouth in right instead. If Williams rests Desmond, Danny Espinosa can start at shortstop, Anthony Rendon can shift to second base and Kevin Frandsen can handle third base.
>>> In injury news, Wilson Ramos went 1 for 4 with an RBI in his second rehab game for Class AA Harrisburg and caught seven innings. He will move his rehab assignment to Class A Potomac on Monday and is expected to play two games.