The Washington Times - August 12, 2012, 01:35AM

PHOENIX — Shortly before gametime Saturday evening, shortstop Ian Desmond took a bat into the batting cage at Chase Field and did something he hadn’t since July 22: hit.

Desmond took 30 swings at balls flipped to him by a coach, giving his left oblique strain its most vigorous test to date, and came through it without any discomfort — a positive sign that he’s healing well.

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“I’m starting to get closer and closer,” Desmond said after the Nationals’ 6-5 victory over the Diamondbacks, their eighth straight. 

The Nationals training staff has Desmond’s rehab all mapped out, but the shortstop has tried to stay away from asking for it in advance. As for what he’ll do tomorrow? “Everyday is probably a little bit more, I’d imagine,” he said.

Desmond began throwing last week when the team was in Houston and has been taking ground balls at shortstop during the team’s batting practice since then, too, but hitting was supposed to be one of the best tests of his oblique. He grabbed a fungo bat Friday and took a few hacks but this was his first true session.

“It’s always been hard not to push it,” Desmond said. “But I’ve got to be smart, obviously, and be careful. But at the same time, I’ve got to go out there and play. You can’t go out there and try to guard against injury. So depending on how it feels, we’ll see.”