The Nationals are not concerned about Ian Desmond’s first start as a leadoff man. Desmond went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against Derek Lowe and Braves relievers in Thursday’s season opener at Nationals Park.
Desmond batted .290 with an on-base percentage of .364 in spring training, getting most of his leadoff starts after the team traded Nyjer Morgan to Milwaukee.
Last year, Desmond batted .269 with an on-base percentage of .308 in 154 games. He struck out 109 times.
Will Desmond have to change his approach as a leadoff hitter? Last season, Desmond batted leadoff just once, going 1-for-5 with one run and one strikeout. He hit the second slot in 46 games and hit in eighth hole 39 times.
Does Desmond like being the leadoff hitter?
“I like playing in the big leagues,” Desmond said. “I will do whatever they tell me to do. I really don’t care.”
But Desmond says he will not change his approach just because he is the first batter up.
“I don’t think I am going to change anything,” Desmond said. “With Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman hitting behind me, they are both .400 on-base percentage guys so it is not necessary that I get on base every time. If I don’t get on, by the numbers, Jayson will hit an extra base hit or walk. Then Werth will be in scoring position for Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. The lineup is a lot more balanced this year.”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is not going to push the panic button with Desmond as his leadoff hitter or ask him to make drastic adjustments after just one game.
“Derek Lowe was just really good,” Riggleman said. “The ball was moving all over the place. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to him. He was just that good. And so was their bullpen.”
While the starting pitcher may change, the Nationals’ confidence in Desmond atop the order won’t.
“(Desmond) is our leadoff hitter,” Riggleman said. “That is the way we are going here early on. Hopefully, it remains that way. If it doesn’t, then we will make adjustments to it. There wasn’t anything about his approach we have changed or would want to change.”