- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nine games into his big league career, it’s fairly evident that Ian Desmond fits into the Washington Nationals’ plan for the future. But it’s becoming less clear exactly where he fits.

Less than two weeks after saying Desmond’s future is at shortstop - where he has played in the minors the past five years - interim manager Jim Riggleman was more circumspect when answering the question Tuesday. He said Desmond could play a variety of positions because of his bat and might actually fit best in the outfield.

Desmond started Tuesday’s game at second base and has made five of nine starts there. Only three starts have been at shortstop, and he made an appearance in right field during Saturday’s loss to the New York Mets, when his misplay of a David Wright fly ball proved costly.

“That’s going to be an interesting call,” Riggleman said. “Ian’s versatility is really going to give the club a lot of options, that he can play several places on the field and contribute in a lot of ways. He’s a ballplayer. He’s not necessarily a second baseman or a shortstop. He’s going to be whatever we need him to be.”

The discussion comes when the Nationals’ middle infield situation for next season is as unclear as ever. The team has talked to shortstop Cristian Guzman, who will be in the final year of a two-year, $16 million deal, about moving to second base in 2010, but it’s unclear how the 31-year-old would respond to such a move.

There’s also a possibility the Nationals will acquire a second baseman during the offseason; the position is believed to be a point of emphasis for the team this winter. And then there’s the question of what the Nationals’ next full-time manager - Riggleman or someone else - will want to do.

Desmond will play for the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Winter League, then will come to spring training presumably with a shot to win a starting job. Time will tell where that job is.

Belliard returns

While the Nationals are sorting out their middle infield questions for the future, former Washington second baseman Ronnie Belliard is creating some intrigue of his own in Los Angeles. Belliard, who was traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 30, has a .322 average and 15 RBI in 19 games for the Dodgers; he’s playing so well that manager Joe Torre has sat Orlando Hudson in Belliard’s favor.

“[Hudson] understood it. He couldn’t ignore how well Ronnie is swinging the bat,” Torre said. “I just told him, ‘At this time of year, we need to get something done, and we’re just going to go out there and try to ride a hot hand.’ ”

Belliard chafed at a lack of playing time early this season but rebounded once Riggleman started playing him more and netted the Nationals a pair of pitchers - Luis Garcia and Victor Garate - in the trade.

“I think when you play for a team that is in a pennant race, you have to go out there and do your best,” Belliard said. “Even when you play with a team that’s not in the race, you just go out there and play hard. But right now, I just came here. I’m here for 23, 24 days. They give everything on the field, so I’m doing the same thing.”

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