WASHINGTON -- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, who is in his first full season in the big leagues, is already considered one of the leaders on the team.

When a pitcher is in trouble on the mound, Desmond is the first to go to the mound and say something. He also is not afraid to talk to the media when he sees something wrong at the ballpark. Take Monday: He was upset that the Nationals were blanked by the Phillies, 8-0, and Nationals Park was loaded with Philadelphia fans.

When Desmond was called up last year, he felt he didn't have a right to say anything. However, after getting to know his teammates, Desmond decided to speak up.

"We have been through a lot together," Desmond said. "I just felt, 'Why not?' Why not say something? The team is moving in the right direction at some point. Why not start now? I really don't plan to lose 100 games for the rest of my career."

"I think I've earned a little respect from my teammates and from the coaching staff. If I was hitting .220 with 40 errors and I was a terrible teammate, then I probably wouldn't say anything. After the first time I said something, nobody said anything to me. Nobody had a problem with it."

Manager Jim Riggleman is one person who doesn't have problem with Desmond speaking his mind. The skipper said Desmond earned the right to say something because he plays hard every day. Riggleman went so far to compare Desmond to Troy Tulowitzki when the latter first entered the big leagues.

"Ian is really a sophomore now," Riggleman said. "He has 500 at-bats. His rookie status is over. He has every right to speak up. He plays hard. When you play hard every day, when you play with intensity and passion you can speak up. I love it.

"The thing that I'm pleased with is the guy is a total gamer. Speaking to my good friend, Jim Tracy, and other people in Colorado, this is what they said Tulowitzki was when he walked into the door in Colorado. He became a leader on the ballclub as a young player. Different people lead in different ways."

Working way back, Flores feeling good

WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher Jesus Flores appears to be back on track. He played six innings in an instructional league game Tuesday and didn't have any problems hitting or throwing.

Flores has missed almost two full Major League seasons because of right shoulder problems.

Flores hurt the shoulder on May 9, 2009, when he was hit by a foul tip off the bat of D-backs outfielder Chris Young in Phoenix.

Flores was in pain for several minutes, but remained in the game before being taken out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Flores was activated from the disabled list last Sept. 4 and made two pinch-hitting appearances.

However, he was sent to Alabama after complaining of shoulder soreness and eventually had right labrum surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews.

According to general manager Mike Rizzo, Flores has recovered and expects him to become a full-time catcher.

"I still seen him as a front-line starting catching prospect," Rizzo said. "Once he is healthy, he has proven that he could be an everyday catcher in the big leagues. He has been good working hard, fitting in extremely well and performing well."