Difo starts as Taylor continues to nurse undisclosed injury

Wilmer Difo will make his first start in center field tonight in the series opener against the Reds, due to the undisclosed injury to Michael A. Taylor.

As in Miami, manager Dusty Baker did not give any further details as to why Taylor is out of the lineup again.

"I told you the other day he was hurting," Baker said. "He feels better today. Just didn't feel it was worth a chance in him going back to where he was. We will see. They'll work on him during the course of the game. Might be able to play some defense or something later, but we'll see. We'll see how the day progresses."

But the good news is Taylor was seen shagging fly balls in center field during batting practice late Friday afternoon. His last game was June 20 at Miami.

Baker was asked why the Nationals were not going to give out details of what is keeping Taylor off the field.

"Why? Number one, it's none of your business. And number two, the opposition don't need to know where," Baker said. "You know what I mean? That's the same thing I would tell my wife. She wouldn't like it. Certain things are our business. Everything's not the world's business.

"Just like I told you before, I hate to even disclose anything about anybody. Because that time I saw (Hall of Fame former Bills and Redskins defensive end) Bruce Smith. I remember he had to report his right knee was bad and they went at his right knee the whole game. That wasn't fair to Bruce or the team. I just never understood that."

wilmer-difo-bat-white.jpgDifo returns to the club after playing a few games this week for Triple-A Syracuse at the center field spot. Brought up as a shortstop, the 25-year-old Difo has never started a major league game in the outfield, having subbed into left field in one game this season.

"Well, he played there three games down there," Baker noted. "We didn't know this was going to happen to Michael. But he was supposed to go to winter ball to play center field, but he didn't. If you can play shortstop you can probably play center, much like Trea (Turner) did. We hope that we can position him well. That was the best I could come up with tonight."

Baker said he likes Difo playing center field because he has the speed to make plays in the middle of the outfield.

"If you can run. Center's the easiest if you can run," Baker said. "If you can't run, they're all hard."

We caught up with Difo before his first game in center field and he said he is comfortable in this new role.

"Good. Yeah. Everything is good," he said.

What is the biggest challenge he will face changing defensive spots for this game?

"I don't know. I don't know. I see today," Difo smiled. "I'm ready for play."

Difo said he did work out in center field at times, as he does at several positions on the diamond.

"Yeah, I work every day," Difo said. "Couple different positions: short, second, outfield too. I practice everywhere. Be ready for opportunity wherever. Wherever I play, I'm ready, stay ready."

Difo admitted that if he had to choose, he'd rather play center field versus the other two spots.

"Yeah, it's fun. I like it over there," Difo said. "I like center field more than right and left. I like it more in center field."

Not speaking on Difo any more, Baker further expanded on his overall outfield defense setup philosophy, saying he disagrees with the notion that you hide a poor defender in left field.

"Left field, I feel, is the hardest," Baker said. "And everybody wants you to put the worst fielder in the outfield in left, but everybody can hit the ball hard to left. The smallest guy can hit the ball hard. The balls are hooking, and for a right-hander thrower, every ball is almost to your backhand. There's a moment when you lose something. Backhand is the hardest in almost every sport.

"To me, if you can throw, I always felt right was easiest. Cause everything is a slice, almost. And a slice is slower than a hook. Everything is going to my forehand if I'm a right-handed thrower. If I was to build a perfect outfield, I'd have a speed guy in center, I'd have a left-handed thrower in left and a right-handed thrower in right field."

Difo has hit .184 in 87 at-bats in the big leagues this season with one homer, one stolen base and five RBIs. Difo said he has worked to try to get into a better groove.

"I felt good prior to heading down to Syracuse," Difo said through club interpreter Octavio Martinez. "Been working hard here before I left and down there as well. I feel very comfortable. I've been doing the same things I've always been doing. Just working hard, taking care of that part.

"I felt comfortable and good before I left, and just things weren't falling my way, which happens. That's part of baseball. But I felt good down there and, hopefully, I continue feeling good here."

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