Ian Desmond got his first day of the season off last week in Milwaukee, but the Nationals shortstop still spent much of his time at Miller Park in work mode, whether in the batting cage or the dugout, trying to fix what has been ailing him all year.
So when he decided to give Desmond another day off Friday, manager Matt Williams made it clear what he expects from his struggling veteran this time around.
“The last day off, he refused to rest,” Williams said. “He took extra batting practice, back to the grind. I want him to rest. Take a blow. He’s been an everyday player for a long, long time. And things have not been good so far for him this season. There is a bunch of baseball left, so I want him to relax and freshen up a little bit and get back at it. That’s what I hope for him. It’s difficult to do that with him, because he’s a worker. I just hope he takes it easy for today and clears out. Let it clear and get back to work.”
Mired in a prolonged slump that has included a .129 batting average and 23 strikeouts in his last 19 games, Desmond has yet to find a consistent groove at the plate, bearing little resemblance to the player who won three straight NL Silver Slugger Awards over the previous three seasons. He also has struggled in the field, though, with only seven errors committed over his last 54 games after he was charged with eight in his first 12 games.
Williams speaks regularly with Desmond and made sure his shortstop understands a day off isn’t a sign of a permanent change. But he also recognizes the need for an occasional breather for a player under the kind of stress Desmond (a pending free agent at season’s end) now finds himself.
“We talk all the time,” the manager said. “We have to understand that, 1) he needs a day. If it turns into two, then it turns into two. He needs some rest. He’s playing a demanding position every day. If that’s the case, then that will be the case. He understands what’s going on and that he needs to get a day off. We’ll see where we go from there.”
Through it all, Williams insists he sees a player in a good frame of mind, one he believes will snap out of his prolonged funk and return to the form he displayed in the past.
“There’s a lot going on,” Williams said. “But he is ready to play every single day and eager to play and goes out there with a good attitude every time he takes the field. When things aren’t going the way you want them to, sometimes it’s good just to hang out, get a day, relax and not do much. Get some good treatment, get a nice lift in, whatever he needs to do. And then get back to work. This game, over the course of 162, is a grind. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s really true. When you’re an everyday player and are trying to fight through something, sometimes it’s good to have a day.”
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