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.