Johnson believes Desmond is All-Star quality

Manager Davey Johnson said he voted for shortstop Ian Desmond as a National League All-Star on his ballot for the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City this July.

With all the outstanding shortstops to choose from, does Johnson really think Desmond is deserving?

“I do,” Johnson said. “He made my ballot, so that should tell you something.”

His batting average isn’t eye-popping, but he has shown good power numbers. His error total is about on pace with last year’s 11. His fielding average is a touch off of his 2011 pace (.966 to .958). He finished with 23 miscues last season, well below his difficult 2010 defensive season when he had 34 errors.

Desmond certainly deserves consideration for his offense overall. He is hitting .265 with a career-best 11 homers, 36 RBIs and eight stolen bases. In the past 12 games, Desmond has hit .304 (14-for-46) with two doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs.

Desmond has had his best power start to a season in his career, and despite a few bobbles at short, has made some amazing fielding plays that have displayed his top-line athletic ability.

Ian_Desmond-sidebar.jpgJohnson said with Desmond alongside second baseman Danny Espinosa, the Nationals have the defense up the middle that stops a lot of rallies.

“I think we have one of the best double-play combinations in baseball, and they are just starting to express their talent,” Johnson said. “Both of them are just getting to know who they are.

“Ian Desmond is very gifted physically. He is a gifted defender and a very gifted offensive player as well. Sometimes it takes a little while to really know the type of player that you need to be and you are. He has had a little more experience up here than Espinosa, but they are both awfully good.”

Desmond leads with his bat and his glove, but also as a motivator on defense for the starting pitcher.

On Thursday, starter Gio Gonzalez had thrown 49 pitches in the first two innings. Later, Desmond came up to Gonzalez during the game and told him to relax, take a deep breath and exhale.

Gonzalez said it was part of the reason he calmed down and went on to pitch six innings and allow just two runs for his ninth win of the season.

“It is something that I have been kind of been doing all season long,” Desmond said. “I try to keep him in check a little bit. ... (It is) not like I am a pitching coach by any means. I try to give him a little confidence and keep him going.”

Johnson agreed this is why Desmond is truly that all-around player on the field for the Nationals.

“He leads by example,” Johnson said. “He plays the game right. He plays the game hard. He is probably the first player in the clubhouse. He sometimes even beats me, and I come in pretty early. His love for the game is expressed out there and he pays attention. He is a foxhole guy.”

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