WASHINGTON -- Entering Sunday's action against the Braves, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond was 0-for-9 with no walks at the leadoff spot.

In Sunday's finale loss, Desmond went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, extending his dry spell.

The Nationals don't want Desmond to change his approach at the plate. They want him to be aggressive, according to hitting coach Rick Eckstein. The team wants him to be the player who hit .326 while batting in the second spot in the order last year.

"He is not a prototypical leadoff guy, because he has a chance to hit the ball into the gap or hit home runs," Eckstein said. "We don't want him taking good pitches and all that stuff. We want him to be more of the hitter that he is. He hasn't put his swing on the ball for the last two games, but he is showing signs that he is getting it back.

"Ian is so dynamic. I don't want to take that away from him. We don't want to put handcuffs on him all the time and say, 'OK, you have to work the count.' He has a chance to be dynamic with his bat. If we keep putting handcuffs on him, some of that stuff may not play to his advantage."

Cora, Hairston set to start for Nats on Tuesday

WASHINGTON -- Because of the two off-days in less than a week, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman hasn't been able to give his bench enough playing time. Only outfielder Laynce Nix had been able to get official at-bats entering Sunday's action.

However, Riggleman is planning to start Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston against the Marlins on Tuesday. Cora has yet to make an appearance, while Hairston had made two appearances and drew a walk. Hairston is expected to platoon with Rick Ankiel in center field.

Burnett has significant role in Nats' relief corps

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman came close to naming left-hander Sean Burnett the team's closer on Saturday.

Burnett picked up his first save, pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings against the Braves. Riggleman wouldn't name Burnett the closer, but the skipper expected Burnett to be ready for the ninth. Riggleman announced recently that Burnett and Drew Storen would split the role.

Storen entered in the eighth on Saturday and allowed a solo homer to Alex Gonzalez.

"If the opportunity presents itself, I want to have Burnett available for the ninth," Riggleman said.

Asked again Sunday if Burnett is the closer, Riggleman declined to put the title on Burnett and indicated that Storen will close games this season.

Burnett has been arguably the most reliable pitcher on the Nationals' relief corps. He has pitched 19 1/3 scoreless innings, which is the longest string of scoreless relief innings since MLB came to D.C. in 2005.