After missing the last two games against the Marlins this weekend, Ian Desmond was back in the lineup Monday night against the Pirates and watching him play you could tell he is feeling better and raring to go.
Lately his defense has really improved and you can see that he is playing with a lot more confidence. We talked about that before the game and he said the credit goes to a lot of people who have supported him along the way. One person who has helped Desmond is five-time All-Star shortstop and former big league skipper Larry Bowa. The two players have had some telephone conversations and Desmond told me Larry and he talked about slowing the game down and just moving through the ball. Larry saw Desmond play in spring training and he also told him he liked the way the Nats' shortstop played. Desmond admitted the conversations have made him feel better and more confident.
Overall the Nationals are playing much improved defense. Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez told me this weekend the Nats' defense is night and day compared to a year ago and he expects it to be something that is consistent throughout the season. Desmond credits an identity of having the same team out there most of the time as helping the players become a solid unit defensively.
Entering the Pirates series, Desmond was 13-for-14 in stolen base attempts. I asked why he is having so much success on the base paths and he said it's because he's not the only one stealing. He said his mindset is just go, the goal is to get to the next base and anything can happen. He also explained the Nats' offense, which admittedly has been stagnant at times, sometimes needs a push. Stealing puts pressure on the other team and often pushes them to make mistakes.
Everyone is on the same page and team is communicating well. Desmond told me they are all in unison and now a quarter of the way into the season you can see the results in the win column. He told me the players have one goal and that is winning. They do not accept losing. No doubt this fighting attitude of the 2011 Nationals is going to help build a winner.