The Washington Times - April 20, 2011, 01:25PM

ST. LOUIS — Ian Desmond was slotted into the fifth spot in the team’s lineup for the first game of a doubleheader with the Cardinals on Wednesday but the Nationals could soon be without their shortstop when Desmond leaves the team to be with his wife, Chelsey, who is getting close to delivering the couple’s first child.

Desmond said the call that Chelsea is ready to give birth to their son could come at any minute and the Nationals are prepared to place Desmond on paternity leave whenever that may be.

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With Major League Baseball instituting a 1-3 day paternity list this season, the Nationals would be able to call up a player to take Desmond’s spot on the roster while he spends time with his family. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said today that the team would probably do that.

The most likely candidate to replace Desmond could be Triple-A Syracuse infielder Brian Bixler, who is hitting .318 with a .444 on-base percentage in 12 games this season.

“It’s going to be dependent on when he gets that phone call that says, ‘You’ve got to get home.’” Riggleman said. “It could be today, it could be a few days from now… Depending on when he goes, who we’re going to be playing against and what kind of pitching we’ll face, we’ll bring the necessary player up.”

– With the Nationals using John Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann both in Wednesday’s doubleheader, someone will need to start on Sunday on short rest. The Nationals are hoping that Lannan can be that guy but it will depend on how taxed he is by the Cardinals this afternoon.

It’s almost a certainty that the Nationals would not pitch Jordan Zimmermann, 20 months removed from Tommy John surgery, on short rest. Lannan has never pitched on three days rest in the major leagues. On four days rest, he’s 14-13 with a 3.25 ERA in 45 games. 

If Lannan does not feel ready to go on Sunday, the Nationals would make it a bullpen game with Chad Gaudin and Brian Broderick the most likely guys to be asked to shoulder that load. If that’s the case, the Nationals rotation will be pushed back even further with an off day on Monday and they’d have guys going on six and seven days of rest which could be troublesome as well.

– Riggleman opted to use Laynce Nix in left field, Alex Cora and third base and Ivan Rodriguez at catcher in the first game on Wednesday because the team is facing a right-handed pitcher in Jake Westbrook. They’ll face left-hander Jaime Garcia in the nightcap and the fact that they’re facing both a righty and a lefty allows the Nationals to get as many players as possible into a game.

Michael Morse, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Wilson Ramos should all play those positions respectively in the second game.

– Todd Coffey and Ryan Zimmerman are both eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday when the team is in Pittsburgh. Chances are good that Coffey will return then as his left calf strain continues to heal this week but Zimmerman is not in St. Louis with the team and will not be with them in Pittsburgh making it extremely unlikely that he’ll be activated on the 24th. 

When Coffey is activated it most likely will mean that right-hander Collin Balester could be ticketed back to Triple-A Syracuse.