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Desmond's play offers Nats options

Desmond's play offers Nats options

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals have three options when it comes to shortstop Ian Desmond:

• Let Desmond start the season with Triple-A Syracuse, where he can play every day at shortstop.

• Let him become a utility player in the big leagues, where he could play short, second and all three outfield positions.

• Let Desmond start at shortstop if he outplays Cristian Guzman this spring.

A lot of people within the organization don't want to see Desmond only serve as a utility player in the Majors, but the third option is a new one. However, if Desmond stays hot, he could supplant Guzman as the regular at short.

Trying to trade Guzman would be difficult because he's making $8 million this season. Guzman was unavailable for comment about whether he would accept a reserve role.

When told of the three options after Saturday's 14-6 loss to the Mets, Desmond, who is 4-for-7 with one home run and six RBIs this spring, was philosophical. He is thankful he has a job in professional baseball and OK with any decision the Nationals make.

"It sounds like a cliché," Desmond said. "I have a job, whether it's in Triple-A, Double-A or the big leagues. How many people out in the world do not have a job? I'm just happy I'm in an opportunity that I have a chance to compete for a spot. I have a chance to be in the big leagues -- if it's right now or sometime during the season. I've done enough lately that it's an option.

"I'm not really thinking about it. That's why I think I'm doing well. I'm not putting pressure on myself. I'm just going out and playing. This is my second year on the 40-man roster. I have a solid income coming in regardless. I just got married [to Chelsey]. I have my dog, Bailey, with me. I can't really complain about the situation that I'm in. I'm competing for a spot in the big leagues. I'm already showing what I could do in the big leagues."

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Desmond wasn't as confident when he first appeared in March 2005. During his first Spring Training with the big club, Desmond reminded people of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter because of his acrobatic plays with the glove and ability to hit in the clutch.

People in the organization often told Desmond that he could play in the big leagues, but he felt differently.

"Inside, I knew I wasn't ready," he said. "I took my lumps in the Minor Leagues. I saw the potential that I had, and I proved it to myself."

It wasn't until the 2009 season that his confidence reached its apex, and he has the stats to back it up. He hit a combined .321 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in the Minors and Majors last season. His biggest highlight of 2009 came on Sept. 10. Desmond made his Major League debut, went 2-for-4, drove in four runs and helped the Nationals edge the Phillies, 8-7.

"Now I can say to myself, 'You are a good hitter, you are a good defensive player, you are a good teammate,'" Desmond said. "I do a lot of things right. That's not to toot my own horn, by any means. I feel I'm a quality player and people like having me on the team."

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

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