This will be an abbreviated post-game wrapup on account of my absence from the Nats' 9-7 win over the Marlins today -- I spent the day away from baseball and in the company of my wonderful wife and another good friend from Minnesota -- but I thought I'd throw a couple thoughts on the blog after catching up on what happened today in Jupiter.
1. Ian Desmond is determined to make this shortstop battle really, really interesting: The 24-year-old went 2-for-4 with a walk and a pair of runs, raising his average to .359 this spring. He made two errors in the field, which gives him four for the spring, and clearly hasn't cleaned up the fielding issues that give the Nationals pause. But with Cristian Guzman's shoulder a serious question mark, it will be interesting to see how the Nationals handle the position in the next two weeks. They need to get a good look at Guzman's shoulder and give him a chance to shake the tentative approach he's still taking toward long throws, but they've given Desmond a large share of playing time all spring. If that continues, it might mean they've made up their minds about a chance at shortstop. Manager Jim Riggleman said Sunday morning the team is not considering a platoon of Guzman and Adam Kennedy at second base, and the Nationals want Desmond playing shortstop every day, somewhere. So one way or the other, somebody's going to wind up unhappy. With Stephen Strasburg sent down to minor-league camp, this will be the story to watch in the final two weeks.
2. John Lannan is ready to go: A 60-pitch, 45-strike performance that only ended after five innings because the Nationals needed to give other pitches some work? Yep, Lannan is coming into regular-season form nicely. This will be Lannan's third year as a starter, and he's been as confident as ever this spring in what he is as a pitcher; he's never going to light up radar guns, but he can be extremely tough when locating his two-seam fastball. Lannan got nine groundouts on Sunday, facing only 19 batters in five innings and dropping his spring ERA to 2.45. Scouts see him as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter because he's not a power pitcher, but his ability to be a stopper doesn't jive with a back-of-the-rotation guy.
3. Jesse English is your camp sleeper: Claimed off waivers last September from the Giants, English was little more than an afterthought at the time. But he hasn't given up a run in his last four appearances, and is the last left-handed specialist left standing in camp. Either he makes the team, or the Nationals decide to use right-hander Tyler Clippard as their lefty specialist. But especially if relievers like Tyler Walker don't force their way onto the roster, or Craig Stammen wins a starting rotation spot, there could be room for English to make the team.
Those are the main points I took away from today's game. I'll post a few news items in the morning -- I'm going to head out to the ballpark before the game, but I'm not going to stick around for the game itself, so I can spend a little more time with my wife before she heads back. I'll have more for you in the morning, though, and the in-game threads will be back in full force on Tuesday night against the Tigers.