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5/4/2014 3:42 P.M. ET

Desmond raising money to combat neurofibromatosis

PHILADELPHIA -- Baseball isn't the only thing on Ian Desmond's mind these days. The Nationals' shortstop is thinking about his friend, Ethan Brown, who has neurofibromatosis. In Brown's case, he has two tumors on each side of his brain stem.

With the help of the internet fundraising site Indiegogo, Desmond is raising money to fight against neurofibromatosis. He is looking to raise $10,000. As of Sunday morning, he has reached 76 percent of his goal. He has picked up $7,604 in donations. Information on how to donate can be found at Nationals.com/ENDNF.

Desmond met Brown through a twitter feed called "Unashamed Athletes." Brown went on the twitter feed and said he needed prayers before having surgery. Desmond sent Brown a prayer and the two have become friends ever since. Desmond and Brown talk a couple of times a week.

Almost every time the Nationals go to Atlanta, Brown and Desmond meet up and talk about life.

"He is a great kid. You never know that he has this disease," Desmond said. "His spirits are contagious. … [I'll do anything] to help him and people similar to him that are fighting through this battle with neurofibromatosis."

Espinosa getting job done off the bench

PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa is showing consistency at the plate. Entering Sunday's action against the Phillies, Espinosa is 24-for-88 (.273) with three home runs and six RBIs.

Hitting coach Rick Schu is not surprised by Espinosa's success at the plate. According to Schu, Espinosa started making adjustments starting in Spring Training. Espinosa realizes he doesn't have to hit home runs to reach his potential. For example, he leads the Nationals in bunt base hits. Last year, Espinosa struck out too much and played with injuries. Scouts have often said he thought too much about hitting home runs and that was one of the reasons for his struggles.

"He realizes he doesn't have to hit the ball out of the park. He is using all of his tools. He can run, he can get around the ball, hit for average, bunt," Schu said. "He is in a better position, going easy and thinking about doing some things simpler."

Espinosa is playing every day at second base because third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list because of a fractured right thumb. That meant Anthony Rendon had to switch from second base to third. On Sunday, Espinosa was given the day off against the Phillies so Kevin Frandsen could get into the lineup.

Worth noting

• Manager Matt Williams made it official after their 1-0 loss to the Phillies -- right-hander Doug Fister will make his Nationals debut against the Athletics in Oakland on Friday.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.