04/16/2013 7:10 PM ET
Desmond off to strong start at plate
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
MIAMI -- Ian Desmond established himself as one of the best shortstops in baseball in 2012, batting .292 with 25 homers and an .845 OPS that ranked first among qualifying Major League shortstops, and he hasn't shown any signs of letting up at the plate in the early going this year.
Entering Tuesday night's game, Desmond was batting .320 with two homers and six doubles, tied for the Major League lead. After a 4-for-23 start, Desmond hit .444 (12-for-27) over his next seven games.
Nine of Desmond's 16 hits on the year have gone for extra bases, including the two doubles he raked in Monday night's four-hit performance in Washington's 10-3 win against Miami.
"I felt good. Obviously it's nice to have success, especially after that series we just came from," Desmond said Monday night, referring to the weekend series in which the Braves swept the Nationals.
"Like I said the other day, it's still so early. We obviously know that we have a good offensive team here. We have a great pitching staff. It's just a matter of being more consistent, and that comes with time. You can't expect to be great right off the bat. It takes time to sculpt and build a team. Obviously we've got some new additions, so we've all got to figure each other out, and it's going to take some time. But [Monday] was a great step in the right direction."
Nats short-handed Tuesday due to illness, injury
MIAMI -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson held first baseman Adam LaRoche out of the starting lineup Monday in order to get Tyler Moore some playing time. Bryce Harper and Denard Span were out of Tuesday's lineup, but not so that Johnson could get his bench players on the field.
Johnson said Harper and Span were both "very sick" with a stomach flu Monday night, adding that they've been dehydrated and unable to keep any food down. So Johnson had to start Roger Bernadina in center field, stick Moore in left and hope the Nationals could ride out Tuesday night's game against the Marlins with a two-man bench, Chad Tracy and Jhonatan Solano.
Harper and Span were scheduled to see a doctor at 6 p.m. ET at Marlins Park, but Johnson said they were "definitely not available to go." Harper showed up to Marlins Park late Tuesday afternoon, and Span was sent back to the hotel to rest after reporting to the field earlier this afternoon.
"I saw Span here earlier, and he looked like he needed to go back to bed," Johnson said. "Hopefully they'll have a quick recovery. ... I know it's been going around D.C., same thing. I hope it's just a 24-hour flu, but with some guys, it hangs on for two or three days."
Washington was already playing a man short, as second baseman Danny Espinosa is still getting treatment on his bruised right forearm. The swelling and bruising has mostly moved from his wrist further up his forearm, and he hoped to take a few swings off a tee at some point Tuesday. But he still wasn't ready to return to the field Tuesday.
Espinosa repeated what he said Monday, that he hopes to be back in the lineup for Wednesday's series finale at Marlins Park. If not, he said, he will be ready for Friday night's series opener in New York.
"He was in there getting treatment, trying to keep the swelling down in his right wrist or forearm, and then he was trying to get a lot of the blood out of there, because it bled quite a bit," Johnson said. "I know he was shooting, trying to be ready to play tomorrow. But I think more likely, with the day off, maybe Friday."
It's worth noting that starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann took batting practice Tuesday afternoon, meaning they could be called upon to pinch-hit if the situation arises. But the Nationals' short bench raised another question: Who's going to man the outfield if something happens to Moore, Bernadina or Jayson Werth?
Suffice it to say Johnson sparked quite a debate among the relievers in the clubhouse a few hours before the game.
"It was just a conversation that didn't bear a lot of fruit," the manager said.
• Pitching coach Steve McCatty's reacted with pride, but also tempered excitement, to Zimmermann's first nine-inning complete game Monday night, saying afterward, "I'm happy for him, but I don't put a whole lot of stock in it." Wonder why? McCatty threw 45 complete games in 161 career starts, and he surpassed the nine-inning mark five times in his career, including a 14-inning loss to the Mariners on Aug. 10, 1980.
In other words: Pitching a complete game was more or less just part of the job description back in McCatty's day.
"Well, yeah," McCatty said, "and I want them to learn that. It's nice. It's always fun to get a complete game.
• With Span and Harper out Tuesday night, Werth returned to the leadoff spot he occupied down the stretch last year, and Ryan Zimmerman moved back up to the third spot in the batting order.
• Zimmerman's 19 career home runs against the Marlins, the latest of which came Monday night, are the most he has hit against any club. He's gone deep 16 times against Atlanta, which ranks second.