- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2009

NEW YORK | The Washington Nationals have a glut of middle infielders on their roster. They have a defense ranked last in the National League despite numerous attempts to tinker with their personnel. And in Ian Desmond, they have an athletic young shortstop willing to juggle some new responsibilities if it means more playing time.

Those are really all the ingredients necessary for interim manager Jim Riggleman’s experiment Saturday, which put Desmond in right field for the first time in his professional career. Desmond hadn’t played there since high school, but when Riggleman asked him about logging a game or two in the outfield in the last two weeks of the season, the 24-year-old was game.

It owes something to the Nationals’ need to play Pete Orr and Alberto Gonzalez every few days but just as much to Riggleman’s long-held philosophy that athletic players shouldn’t be pigeonholed.

He tried second baseman Anderson Hernandez in the outfield this season and has talked to shortstop Cristian Guzman about moving to second base. The Nationals are also sending Orr to their instructional league in Viera, Fla., after the season to learn how to catch.

“I do believe it’s a very valuable asset to have,” Riggleman said. “If Pete Orr can move around on the field, Desmond can move around on the field, Gonzalez - if these guys can move around and play different positions, you don’t get locked in during the course of the game.”

Riggleman said he informed regular right fielder Elijah Dukes that he’ll play three out of every four days the rest of the season, and he indicated starters like Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn could see more days off before the end of the season as well. For the Nationals’ middle infielders, however, playing time is scarce.

The Nationals are still evaluating Desmond and Orr while giving Gonzalez playing time and kicking around the idea of moving Guzman to second base. There’s also a strong possibility general manager Mike Rizzo will look for a second baseman this winter, which could increase the need for versatility.

“He might find a second baseman we can’t pass up. We have Cristian Guzman at short. Where does that leave Ian Desmond? He may find a shortstop. Guzman may be at second,” Riggleman said. “Desmond may be all over the field. So we don’t want to have a situation where Mike can’t acquire talent because we’ve got some people here who can only play one position.”

Dunn hits 100

With his game-tying single in the seventh, Adam Dunn drove in his 100th run of the season, giving him 100 RBI for the fifth time in six seasons. He needs six RBI in the season’s final 14 games to tie his career high of 106, set in 2007 with Cincinnati.

Before Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman had the Nationals’ only 100-RBI season in 2006.

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