Johnson shares his view on Desmond
Senior advisor thinks utility role would slow progression
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman indicated recently that infielder Ian Desmond would get a chance to become a utility player. Desmond, 24, could play all three outfield positions as well as see action at shortstop and second base.
Davey Johnson, the team's senior advisor to general manager Mike Rizzo, said Desmond should play every day as a shortstop or at second base. Johnson feels a veteran player should be in a utility role and that a young player like Desmond should develop at one position. Once Desmond becomes a veteran, then he could be considered for a utility role -- if that's the case.
Johnson pointed out that Riggleman and Rizzo will make the final decision on Desmond.
"I don't like to use a young guy in that situation. It's not something I would recommend doing," Johnson said. "I like someone that is more of a veteran guy. If you are saying Ian Desmond would be a good utility player -- no.
"He has to play. He is going to play every day. It's very difficult to sit and come in once in a while to play. To do that for somebody that doesn't know the pitchers and the league, it's not a good thing. You don't want to have rookies in that role."
Riggleman said the team will take Johnson's advice seriously.
"I think that is probably the most likely scenario," Riggleman said. "In Ian's situation, he is going to play a lot of baseball one way or the other. He is going to be playing every day in Triple-A or getting enough playing time with us. We are not going to slow down his development."
Johnson knows what it's like to use a rookie as a utility player. In 1986, as a manager of the Mets, Johnson used Kevin Mitchell as a utility man. That season, Mitchell, then 24, played six different positions -- everywhere except for second base, catcher and pitcher -- and received 328 at-bats.
Twenty-three years later, Johnson regrets using Mitchell in the utility role, even though the young slugger helped the Mets win a World Series title that year.
"I didn't want to use him in that utility role," Johnson said. "I wanted to play him more often. I was looking to do that [the next year], but [the Mets] traded him. I don't think I handled the [Mitchell situation] well, because I would rather have him play every day for me at third base or left field. He did pretty well for the Giants."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.