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Desmond in depth on his struggles, getting days off


Desmond in depth on his struggles, getting days off

Stuck in a month-long slump, shortstop Ian Desmond was given Friday night off by the Nationals' coaching staff with the intention of giving him some rest, both physically and mentally. He was also out of the lineup initially on Saturday before Yunel Escobar was a late scratch due to a stomach bug.

Desmond is not used to sitting out when healthy. He led the Nats in games played in 2013 and 2014, and finished second on the team in 2010 and 2011.

But Desmond is batting just .222/.266/.341 through 69 games this year and has only 10 hits in his last 78 at-bats (.128) going back to May 30. He has three consecutive Silver Sluggers to point to, but it's not early anymore with the season's midway point quickly approaching.

"I mean, I'm hitting .220. It's pretty hard to just sit back and just trust that everything's gonna be fine. But I do believe I'm gonna be fine, and I believe my swing's gonna show up and everything's gonna be alright."

Though the Nats gave Desmond a day off, he didn't exactly take it off.

"Of course not," manager Matt Williams said. "He came out for early grounders [Friday] with the middle infielders and then took more during batting practice and took his regular BP. You can’t tell him no, because they’re grown men. They can do what they want."

Desmond understands what the Nationals are prescribing for him, that a little time off could help him in the long run. But he's tied to his routine and some habits are just hard to break.

"I'm a worker, man. I come here every day, try to keep it as much blue collar as I can, and if you're not performing, you gotta get better. So yeah, I mean I rested, but at the same time, I'm still trying to sharpen the tools," he said.

Desmond said he has no plans to overhaul his swing, as it did win him those three Silver Sluggers. He may, however, make minor tweaks with the help of hitting coach Rick Schu.

"I'm married to my swing, it's not gonna change. My swing is my swing. I'll make small adjustments, but five, ten years ago I would've overhauled my swing. Those are the mistakes I made back then. I'm not gonna venture down that road again. I believe in what I've done," he said.

Desmond has been in the majors for seven years, but didn't hit his stride until 2012, his fourth season. He made his debut after spending more than five years in the minor leagues as a prospect. He is 29 years old and has seen steep highs and lows.

"I have a long history of failures and successes. Going back to my first year in pro ball. I grinded my way here, and I'll grind my way back. Simple as that. I believe in myself. I don't need anything or anybody to tell me what I'm capable of. I know what I'm capable of. I'll get it back," he said.

Williams may give Desmond more rest in the coming weeks if his struggles continue. He wants to get his usually-reliable shortstop back on track no matter what it takes.

"It’s important for him to get back to where he wants to be, and if a couple of days off does that then at the end of the year, maybe he’ll look back and say that was good," he explained. "It’s never easy to take him out of the lineup but for the long-term health of our team and his season and his mentality, I think it’s important. It’s never easy, but a couple of day I think will be good for him."

Desmond insisted he is not worried about anything in the big picture. This is supposed to be a temporary experiment and he is willing to try anything to solve his issues.

"I don't care. I'm here for the Washington Nationals and I wanna win games. As long as we're winning, I'm fine," he said.


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Nats' Max Scherzer puts pitching arm to good use thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick

Nats' Max Scherzer puts pitching arm to good use thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick

Washington National ace Max Scherzer is putting his throwing arm to good use in the offseason thanks to Alex Ovechkin.

The pitcher and his wife, Erica May-Scherzer, were in attendance for the Caps' 6-2 blowout win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night where Ovi notched a hat trick for the first time since Nov. 25, 2017.

In classic hat trick celebratory fashion, Scherzer threw his cap onto the ice at Capital One Arena.

Scherzer has always been a big supporter of the Caps. Back in June, the Cy Young Award winner and Nats first baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, led the "Lets Go Caps" chant during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. He even credited striking out 13 batters the following day to the Caps' win. 


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Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

LAS VEGAS -- On Line 1 is a team interested in Tanner Roark.

They should be. Durable, trustworthy, rather effective, affordable. These are traits for Roark, even considering a down season in 2018.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has fielded inquiries on his 32-year-old fourth starter since signing Patrick Corbin. Other organizations wonder if the Nationals now have a pitching surplus. They don’t. For that reason, and the same ones that make Roark attractive to others, his final season before free agency is very likely to occur in Washington.

“Teams look favorably on a one-year guy that could help them,” Rizzo said. “We’ve spoken to a couple of teams about it, but nothing serious or imminent that’s happening at this point.”

Receiving a proper return would be difficult. Moving Roark would increase a risk of 2018 when the Nationals’ rotation picked up two injuries and went careening into a bad place outside of Max Scherzer. The high-end organizational depth at the spot is limited to non-existent. Washington will cross its fingers about Joe Ross or Erick Fedde in the fifth spot. It wants to move with assurances in spots 1-4. Dealing Roark undermines that idea. 

“We always talk about depth,” Rizzo said. “And to eliminate a pitcher like Roark, we would certainly like to strengthen that strength, if we were to make a deal for him.”

In other words, thanks for calling.

Taylor is wintering in the Dominican

Michael A. Taylor typically spends his winters in Florida. He’s spending a chunk of this December in the Dominican Republic, where he is playing winter ball.

Taylor knew at the end of a dismal offensive season he wanted to do extra work in the offseason. The plan was for him to get with hitting coach Kevin Long.

An idea came up: What about winter ball?

Taylor was reluctant at first. He’s entering his age-28 season with five years in the major leagues behind him. Going to winter ball is atypical for such a player.

But, there’s a lot to fix. Taylor’s voluminous strikeout rate and lack of overall contact have undermined his plethora of other abilities. The Nationals need him to make more contact so he can also be a problem on the basepaths. Taylor stole 24 bases in 2018.

The Nationals don’t expect him to be is a .300 hitter. Anything close to the .270 Taylor hit in 2017 would be more than fine. 

“Hopefully he hones down in his swing and puts the ball in play and help us out a lot,” manager Davey Martinez said. 

Martinez sees a path for Taylor to play quite a bit. Victor Robles will need breaks. Adam Eaton will need breaks. Juan Soto … not so much. But, that leaves room for Taylor to tag some starts as well as certain spot usage later in games defensively or on the bases. If his swing is improved, all the better for the Nationals. 

What is Corbin bringing?

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo watched Corbin for two seasons. What he saw was someone who adopted the gameplan born of analytics, added an effective off-speed pitch while shelving another, then turned into one of the top left-handed starters in baseball. 

“I think he was sent to the bullpen [earlier],” Lovollo said. “In '17 he started to develop a lot of confidence in a couple different pitches that he was landing at any time. And that's all that hard work that he's putting in behind the scenes to make good things happen.

“He believed in scouting reports. He believed in pitching plans that we put in place. And he was starting to have a lot of success that he carried over into 2018.

“When I first met Patrick, he had a lot on his mind. He was frustrated by a lot of things and maybe being a little bit misunderstood. I encouraged him to be himself and trust those around him. He did that. He had a couple of pitching coaches and really good catching corps that he developed a strong relationship with. And you could see it yielded very, very good results.

“So Washington is getting a very special player. We're going to miss him in Arizona. We knew that was a strong possibility that was going to happen.”

Interesting to hear is Lovullo suggesting Corbin wasn’t all-in with what analytics were saying about pitch selection. That changed after further conversations with the coaching staff. So did his results.

“I think at the beginning when we were bringing some new normals into the organization, the start of the '17 -- more specifically, in Spring Training '17, he was kind of resisting it and he was going to rely on some of the things that he was good at that worked prior to that point in his career,” Lovullo said. “But the more he trusted and began to develop relationships with very important people inside of that, inside of that pitching room, he started to see some really good results.

“So I know that, like I said, he delivered the pitches. He made all good things happen by him going on the mound and dialing it up. But he went out there with a lot of confidence, had a great plan in follow-up. Took some time for him to develop that relationship, and it became very powerful.”