- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

When Potomac pitcher Mike O’Connor came off the first-base side of the mound and missed a high chopper Sunday afternoon, he probably thought the play would result in a weak infield single. It certainly should have.

Instead, shortstop Ian Desmond swooped in and scooped up the ball in front of second baseman Shawn Norris. Without hesitation, Desmond shoveled the ball with his glove nearly 30 feet to first baseman Josh Whitesell just in time to beat the runner.

“I just go for every ball, and however I can get the ball to first, I’ll do it,” Desmond said.

Immediately the press box at Pfitzner Stadium was buzzing with chatter.

Has anyone ever seen a shortstop make a play that far on the second-base side of the field?

Has anyone ever seen a SHORTSTOP flip the ball with his glove to first base?

The answers unanimously were no and no.

“He makes those kinds of plays, although no two are ever the same,” Washington director of player development Adam Wogan said. “He makes plays I’ve never seen before. He has a chance to be special defensively. There are things he needs to work on to be more consistent, but based on his age, there are other guys who are older and at higher levels who need to work on those same things. If he could do that, he’d be in the big leagues right now regardless of how he hits.”

Desmond was the organization’s third-round pick in the 2004 draft. He struggled at the end of last season, but he has rocketed to the forefront of Washington prospects this season.

It began during spring training, when the 19-year old Desmond wowed the organization’s top officials with his defensive wizardry and a poise that is extremely rare for someone his age. He hit better than anyone could have expected. General manager Jim Bowden even compared Desmond to Derek Jeter.

“It was definitely fun. I played well there, but I was too young,” Desmond said. “I still have a lot of things to learn. That is the kind of stuff that makes you better. It was a great experience.”

After spending the first half of the season at Class A Savannah, Desmond was promoted to Potomac, where he is one of the youngest players in the league. He doesn’t turn 20 until next month.

Last year Desmond committed 25 errors in 51 games as a professional. Those numbers were down at Savannah, but he has committed 14 in 42 games at Potomac.

“We firmly believe the error totals are a result of him getting to more balls and making attempts on plays that other guys wouldn’t have a chance on,” Wogan said. “There are certain routine plays where he doesn’t set his feet right or he doesn’t position himself properly. Anything he does [wrong], he never makes the same mistake twice.”

While his glovework ranks among the elite, questions about his bat remain. He’s hitting .268 since his promotion, an improvement from the .247 clip at Savannah. He also has walked more and struck out less, and Wogan lauded his willingness to make adjustments.

“I don’t know if there are things I need to work on so much as things I need to learn, like, what to do in certain situations,” Desmond said. “Like what pitches they are going to throw to me in certain at-bats. I think the more games I play in, the better off I’ll be.”

Farm notes — A pair of Nationals prospects will not play again this season because of shoulder troubles. Pitcher Daryl Thompson had minor shoulder surgery, and Wogan said he expects Thompson to be ready next spring. Outfielder John Michael Howell — the organization’s ninth-round pick in this year’s draft — was off to a great start at short-season Class A Vermont (.363 in 113 at-bats) but complained of shoulder soreness and was shut down. …

An early report on Ryan Zimmerman’s first week at shortstop: “The word is that he looks just as comfortable at short as he did at third,” Wogan said. “We know his hands and his arm are very, very good from what we saw at third base. It’s just a matter of how he reacts and how he turns the double play. So far, he’s been solid.”

Wogan said Zimmerman, Larry Broadway and likely Brendan Harris will be three of the six Nationals prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League. The league consists of six teams, and each organization sends six of its top prospects primarily from Class AA and Class AAA.

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