Williams on Desmond's day off and Zimmerman's status

Nationals manager Matt Williams gave shortstop Ian Desmond the day off in Thursday's series finale with the Phillies. It marked the first time in 58 games Desmond will not start a game for the Nationals.

Williams has said for a few weeks he has wanted to give all his regulars a day off and Thursday seemed a natural spot to give Desmond the breather. Wednesday was a late game where the Nats had to start and stop because of the rain delay.

"He came in last night a little tight after (the game)," Williams said. "So it is a good day to give him a rest. We don't have another off day till the end of the road trip and going west, it is a good day for him. (It's) just (his) body, you get beat up out there."

The lineup card showed Anthony Rendon at second base and Danny Espinosa at shortstop. Williams placed Kevin Frandsen at third base and Ryan Zimmerman remained in left field.

Williams said there were a number of reasons he switched up the lineup to this configuration.

"Well, Franny over the last couple of years, had played mostly third and first," Williams said. "His natural position is second base. Hopefully, it won't be too long that Anthony may have to play second base. That would mean that (Bryce) Harp's back. If we get a chance, get him over there. He is accustomed to doing it. He has got good range. They have a lot of lefties in their lineup."

Williams also explained the reasoning behind placing Frandsen at third instead of Zimmerman.

"(Zimmerman) is an option," Williams said. "He is early in the process of this throwing program, too. I am sure at some point, he will be in there. I think he is playing left field fine, too. We just want his bat in the lineup wherever we can.

"If he came back in to third base, he has been doing it a long time. It is not like it is going to be foreign. We have to be mindful, too, of one, his thumb (and) two, his shoulder. He continues his process every day. At some point, he is going to be back in there anyway."

At the start of play Thursday, the Nationals find themselves just 1 1/2 games back of division leader Atlanta. Williams said the National League East is shaping up to be quite a race.

"The division's tight," Williams said. "You look at it and say anybody can go on a run and make some hay here. We get too far ahead of ourselves though, (and) we tend to get in trouble. My response to that is yeah, that is where we are at. Nothing we can do about what has happened so far. All we can do is look ahead and look to today, first and foremost. And try to win this game. Everyone understands where we are at in the standings and how the season has gone. We have a chance."

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