The Washington Times - March 21, 2011, 11:14PM

VIERA, Fla. — Hopefully by now you’ve noticed that the Washington Times Sports section is back.

We officially re-launched our section Monday morning, after a 444 day hiatus, and the first in-print Nationals story of the new section was on the Nationals’ possible double play tandem of the future, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa.

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You can read the whole story here.

As usually is the case, there was a lot of good stuff that didn’t make it into the newspaper story so I thought I’d share some of Desmond and Espinosa’s other thoughts on the subject with you here.

Desmond:

On how he’ll help Espinosa adjust to the big leagues: “Last year I had Adam Kennedy to kind of guide me through the year and let me know what I needed to do — what was a big deal, what wasn’t a big deal, things I should worry about, just kind of pick my battles. That’s kind of what I plan on doing for Danny.”

On his friendly relationship with Espinosa: “We just have fun with each other. We poke each other like brothers… At the end of the day, we know that we’re going to be stuck with each other for who knows how long. Hopefully a long time. I think we’re both ready. We’re both excited for it and we’re both excited to tackle the challenges ahead.”

On how Espinosa being a former shortstop will be helpful: “He was a really good shortstop, so if I have a question, I’m not afraid to ask him. Him being a younger guy, I think a lot of people would have a problem with that but I know that he can play. I know that he’s a good defender and I think I can learn something from him.”

On what he’d heard about Espinosa before he arrived in Washington last September: I have buddies down (in the minor leagues) that were playing with him and the whole time I was going up ahead of him, they were telling me, ‘Hey, you know this kid’s really good, you guys are going to have fun together, you’re really going to like him.’ Now that I finally get to meet him and play with him, they were all right. I understand all the things that they were talking about, the excitement that he brings to the field.

“We are a lot alike. We both like to push everything to the limit and we’re not afraid to make mistakes. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing, we want to push each other as far as we can go. I think for the organization that’s going to be a good thing, hopefully people will feed off of that and we can bring a championship here.”

On playing in the infield with new first baseman Adam LaRoche: “It’s great. I think not only his defense, not only his bat, the way he is, his personality. He’s consistent throughout everything he does, whether it’s golfing, fishing, hunting, whatever it may be, he’s always that cool, calm, collected. You need that balance. You need to have that high energy guy, you need to have some guys that are real relaxed and everyone balances themselves out in between and I think that’s what he’s really going to do… It just gives you a little more confidence knowing he’s going to be over there for you and he’s working his tail off to become a better first baseman. He’s regarded as one of the best now and he’s out there every day trying to get better and that’s a good sign.”

Espinosa:

On how he feels this year in camp, as opposed to the past: I guess in a sense (second base) was my position to lose — and nothing’s been won yet, the team hasn’t been cut down to the final 25 guys, but it’s been awesome. I feel more at ease, I feel like I’ve been playing my game more, I don’t feel as uptight. I just feel like I’m able to go out there and be myself, the personality that I want to be on the field and in the clubhouse. That allows me to be me so I can take it out to the field and I feel comfortable.”

On how difficult it was to make the transition to second base after over 300 games at shortstop in the minor leagues: “It wasn’t tough. You just had to put in the work. I’d played it before. It was a long time ago, but I had played it before. It was just a matter of getting comfortable back over there again. I would say, the big thing is that at shortstop, it’s your infield. At second base, now you play off what the shortstop wants. You might have an idea but now you’ve got to work with him and I trust Ian that he’s going to put me in the right place. He’s played in the league longer than I have. He’s going to know the hitters better, I’m going to go off what he thinks.”

On the friendship between the two and how he and Desmond developed chemistry so easily: “I think it’s just working with each other. We ask each other, ‘Do you want the ball? Where do you need the ball?’ Just getting to know each other… It’s all about getting to know what the other person’s going to do. How they’re going to give you a double play ball, how hard the ball’s going to come, at what angle, it’s all just about learning the other person. I think we’ve worked hard on that.

“We just get along. Maybe in some other instances maybe there was a jealousy factor about, ‘I was the shortstop and I want to be the shortstop and I don’t like him,’ but you can’t look at it that way, in my eyes. I’m in the big leagues. We’re playing together and if that’s what’s going to make us the best, then that’s what’s going to make us the best. I’m not going to make it selfish. It wasn’t his decision, it wasn’t my decision. There’s nothing to hold on him, there’s nothing to hold on anybody. We’re up the middle, we’re going to be the best. We get along just because we get along. I don’t think we go out of our way to fake trying to get along.

“We joke around all the time, we work hard. I think, personality wise, I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t strong, I always had to work for what I had and I think he feels like he did the same thing, from what we’ve talked about. I think we’ve always had to work and had a certain attitude to where we’ve gotten, we’re on the same page with that.”