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Nats’ Hernandez stock falls amid Gonzalez’s surge

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When Anderson Hernandez entered the regular season, fresh off more than 900 at-bats in the past year in the majors, minors and winter ball, all the Washington Nationals could do was rave about how the 26-year-old had transformed himself into the everyday solution at second base.

Not four months later, they're trying him out in left field and talking about his future as a utility player.

So what happened?

It wasn't the switch from Manny Acta to Jim Riggleman; the Nationals' interim manager said Saturday the team had planned the switch before Acta was fired at the All-Star break, and Acta mentioned several times that Alberto Gonzalez would get more at-bats in the second half.

Mostly, the Nationals saw enough from Hernandez in the first half to determine he wasn't the long-term answer at the position, and now they're trying to see if Gonzalez can be.

"Right before the All-Star break, Manny had this conversation with Anderson that we're going to start playing Gonzalez a little more - you're going to have to continue to do your work and progress as best you can," Riggleman said. "That decision was made, and we've continued along that. I know it appears that, since I've been managing, he hasn't played. But that decision was somewhat made before I took over as manager, and I agree with it.

"A lot of it is not any particular shortcomings of him. It's the progress of Alberto Gonzalez."

Hernandez was hitting .251 before Saturday's game and was out of the lineup for the 10th time in Riggleman's 10 games. He has had just three pinch-hit appearances, striking out in two of them, and played left field for the first time July 19.

"We've made a determination about Anderson that his at-bats in the future in this organization may come more sporadically," Riggleman said. "He needs to prepare himself to play not with consistent at-bats, but with more at-bats where he's had some days off. ... If other people don't do the job, it circulates back to Anderson, and he gets another shot at it."

Awaiting a response

Riggleman broke from his character of the first several games he managed - or for that matter, the way Acta handled the team before him - with his stern lecture Friday following the Nationals' 6-2 loss to San Diego.

On Saturday, though, he said he feels the Nationals are not that far from playing respectably and that he didn't have any reason to think the team's haggard effort Friday would continue.

"I always say, you go hard in the game, you give everything you have," Riggleman said. "You take a shower, and you wash that one off - win or loss. As a manager, we take it personally. I always think first about what I could have done differently. The ballgame went as it did, and I wasn't happy about the ballgame, but I've just got to get ready for this next one."

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