MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Nationals continue to work on their defense

Nationals continue to work on their defense

NEW YORK -- One thing can be said about the Nationals: They work hard before games when it comes to improving their defense.

Before home games during the regular season and during batting practice on the road, the Nationals are always working on defensive drills.

However, entering Friday's action against the Mets, the Nationals are 30th in the Major Leagues in fielding percentage, and that has defensive coordinator Mark Weidemaier baffled, to say the least.

Sometimes he wonders if the team could have done anything differently during Spring Training. But he points out the team worked extremely hard during the exhibition season.

"It doesn't make you happy," Weidemaier said. "I can't think of a team that works any harder [on defense] -- drill-wise, teaching-wise, repetition-wise.

"I think the thing that gets to me is some of the careless errors, pickoff plays that are thrown away, the PFPs, the cutoff and relays. The things that we take for granted at this level you have to execute. If I had the answers, we wouldn't be last in the league. I don't know what else we can do.

"I take it personally. I know [first-base coach] Tony Tarasco does in the outfield, I know that [manager] Matt [Williams] does. It's very distasteful. All we can do is keep giving the players the time that they need and the work they need."

Weidemaier wonders if injuries played a role in the slow start on defense. The Nationals had several players who were injured during Spring Training and the continuity wasn't there. Remember, Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Anthony Rendon are examples of guys who missed most of Spring Training.

"Without that stability coming out of the chute, I really think that affects your ballclub. There is not a comfort level yet," Weidemaier said.

Of the 24 errors the Nationals have made, nine of them have come from shortstop Ian Desmond. The team is aware that Desmond has a history of getting off to a slow start with the glove. But Weidemaier made it clear that no one works harder than Desmond.

Weidemaier said Desmond is dedicated when it comes to his defense. Desmond comes to work early, takes grounders in the cage and participates in other defensive drills.

"He does everything," Weidemaier said. "It's weird. It just seems to be a stretch he has to play through. Nobody gives any more effort than he does. We put our arm around him and support him. It's just something that he plays through."

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