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04/28/10 3:22 PM ET

Riggleman: Desmond 'young captain'

Nats shortstop not afraid to communicate with outfielders

CHICAGO -- After Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Cubs, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said shortstop Ian Desmond is like a young team captain on the field.

Desmond is not afraid to position the outfielders or his double-play partner before pitches are thrown.

"I watch him. He is communicating all the time with outfielders," Riggleman said. "He is communicating with the second baseman. He is like a young captain on the field. He is really impressive."

Desmond said being around his teammates has helped him relax and help them on the field. He has known most of them since 2005.

"I've been playing with all these guys since 2005 [in Spring Training]," Desmond said. "The majority of them have been here since I've been here. In Spring Training, everyone is light and having fun in Spring Training. That's the time when I get a better relationship with the guys."

According to general manager Mike Rizzo, Desmond gets upset whenever he makes a mistake on the field.

"He has passion for the game,' Rizzo said. "He gets upset with himself when he doesn't perform or makes mistakes. I keep telling him, 'Just keep playing hard. you are going to make mistakes as long you go 110 miles an hour.'"

Bernadina, Maxwell to split right-field duties

CHICAGO -- The Nationals have a new platoon system in right field. Manager Jim Riggleman announced Wednesday that Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell will split the duties, while Willie Harris and Willy Taveras will go back on the bench.

Riggleman went so far as to say that he wants Bernadina or Maxwell to one day take over the position on a regular basis. With the Nats facing four right-handed starters the next four games, including Wednesday's contest against the Cubs, Bernadina will get the starts.

"I'm hoping Roger will jump in there and jump with that," Riggleman said. "We'll give Willie a couple of games in left field and mix him around in the infield. His value to us is so high coming off the bench that it would be nice if Roger could latch on to the job from the left side. Only time will tell."

Maxwell will face left-handed pitching. He is 4-for-14 [.286] with a home run and two RBIs against southpaws.

Washington has already used six right fielders this season, and none of them have really stepped up to the challenge. Entering Wednesday, they were hitting a combined .145 with three home runs and 13 RBIs, but made only one error this season.

Bernadina, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday night, arrived from Toledo at 7 a.m. ET. He saw Riggleman in the lobby of the team hotel, and Bernadina was informed by his boss that he would be starting against the Cubs on Wednesday.

Bernadina was able to get an hour of sleep and then headed to Wrigley Field.

Bernadina has hit safely in 12 of the 13 games he's played this season at the Triple-A level, including all seven games during the past week. Five of his past six games were multihit efforts, giving him a league-best 13 hits to go along with a .464 average for the week.

Strasburg to start for Harrisburg on Sunday

CHICAGO -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will get another start for Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday. According to general manager Mike Rizzo, Strasburg will pitch five innings or throw 85 pitches.

"Nothing has changed about his program or the way we are handling him," Rizzo said Wednesday morning.

Rizzo said Strasburg will eventually go to Triple-A Syracuse, but didn't put a timetable on when that would happen. Strasburg has been dominating for Harrisburg, allowing one run in 17 1/3 innings and striking out 23.

"As he progresses, he is going to go to Syracuse and is going to pitch there until we deem he is ready to go to the next level," Rizzo said. "It's reasonable to assume he is going to be in Syracuse sometime soon.

"He is doing everything we thought he would do and more. He seems to get better and better and stronger and stronger each start."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.