MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Desmond working to bounce back at plate

Despite offensive slump, shortstop's defense remains strong

Desmond working to bounce back at plate

ST. PETERSBURG -- As Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond works his way through a lengthy slump, he and the Nationals are both trying all they can to get him out of it.

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Desmond is working hard before games. He had early batting practice in the cage before Monday's 6-1 loss. Desmond said he hasn't lost faith in his abilities at the plate. He acknowledged that there are some preparation and mechanical issues he has to figure out. Meanwhile, manager Matt Williams tried to give him a different look, slotting Desmond in the No. 9 spot in the batting order on Monday.

Desmond is 6-for-60 [.100] with 24 strikeouts in his past 16 games and has seen his batting average dip to .222. He declined to go into details on what the preparation and mechanical issues were, but said that he has created some bad habits. Still, the bigger issue to the veteran is his team's status.

"We are [a game and a half] back. If anything is bothering me, it's that I'm not doing the things I can do to help the team," Desmond said. "I want to come out and be a threat like I've been over the last three years.

"When guys are throwing 90-mph fastballs right down the middle … I'm not able to pull the trigger, or I'm swinging at sliders in the dirt and not hitting balls I can hit. That's what's on my mind. … That's the mental grind. I've been in this situation. It's tough, but I've been through a lot of rain storms, and every time, they brought sun.

"I'm going to stick with that. I just know at the end of the day, after game 162 and beyond, I'm going to be where I need to be. But right now, the sun will come out."

Williams said that while Desmond is in a hitting slump, he has been playing great defense lately.

"He is catching everything, which is great," Williams said. "He is not taking any issue he has at the plate to his defense, which he never does really. He is a pro. I just hope to get him going. When he gets going, it's special. He works hard, and he is attentive every single day. Hopefully, a different spot in the lineup will get his timing back and get his confidence going. A couple of knocks won't hurt that."

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.