- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

THE BUZZ

Tracking the Nationals’ news and trends from the past week:

FRESH START [DOWN]

After firing Manny Acta — what do you know? — same problems in 0-4 start under Jim Riggleman.

SCOTT OLSEN [DOWN]

Strained lat muscle sidelines left-hander; team has to hope injury isn’t sign of bigger problems.

DREW STOREN [UP]

First-round pick promoted to Class A Potomac, continuing quick move through minors.

NATIONALS’ PUBLIC IMAGE [DOWN]

Slammed by Obama on national TV? Is there anyone who hasn’t made fun of this team?

MINOR LEAGUE WATCH

After spending parts of four seasons battling injuries and just trying to grow up in the minor leagues, shortstop Ian Desmond appears to be back near the top of the Nationals’ list of prospects. He was hitting .306 in 42 games at Class AA Harrisburg before being promoted to Class AAA Syracuse. And Nationals bench coach Pat Corrales, who saw Harrisburg with Desmond in the fold and with the shortstop out because of injuries, said the 23-year-old’s presence changed the entire lineup.

“They didn’t play the same when he was gone,” Corrales said. “He’d come back and it was like, ‘Phew, it’s over; he’s back. We can start playing again.’ That’s the effect he had.”

Desmond’s emergence comes at a time when the Nationals are thin on middle-infield prospects, and if he’s ready to make the next step, he could be in line for a September call-up.

“I don’t know when, but he’s going to be a fine player up here,” Corrales said.

EX-NATIONALS PLAYER OF THE WEEK

When the Nationals traded Jon Rauch to Arizona last summer, it left the team without a closer and effectively finalized the transformation of the bullpen from bedrock to shaky. All that, of course, assumed Rauch would continue to produce the way he did for the Nationals in the first half of last season. Instead, he has been poor since, struggling in a pennant race — and alienating teammates — last season and continuing those twin themes this year. The deal, which brought Emilio Bonifacio to Washington, effectively netted Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham once Bonifacio was shipped to Florida. That could go down as the best deal Jim Bowden ever made as Nationals general manager.

Season stats: 1-0, 4.10 ERA, 40 2/3 IP, 14 BB, 25 K, 4 HR

- Ben Goessling

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