- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - As part of rookie manager Matt Williams’ emphasis on defense, the Washington Nationals regularly schedule extra infield practice for their backups.

On Wednesday, starters Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon took part.

That’s because the Nationals’ errors - and, not coincidentally, losses - have been mounting.

Entering its game against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, Washington already had accumulated a majors-high 23 errors, more than one per game, and its .970 fielding percentage also was the worst in the big leagues.

“It’s never too late to right the ship, and that’s something we’re going to do. Simple as that,” said shortstop Desmond, whose eight errors through Tuesday were more than three clubs had.

Desmond said he “was more than happy” to take part in the additional drills.

“There’s nothing you can do in practice, either offensively or defensively, that can relate to what you’re doing in the game. But more repetition never hurts. You might find something in BP or in fielding practice that clicks,” he said.

“That’s what we’re all searching for - that one thing that clicks. We can’t force it. It’s going to come. And hopefully it comes sooner than later.”

Second baseman Espinosa and third baseman Rendon also showed up without being told to, according to Williams.

“They came on their own free will today, which is good, which shows me something - they care about it,” the manager said.

Under previous skipper Davey Johnson, the Nationals tied for the seventh-most errors in 2013 with 107.

“We pride ourselves on our defense and athleticism and that type of thing, so it’s a little surprising that we’ve made this amount of errors,” general manager Mike Rizzo said.

“It’s not lack of effort or work ethic,” he added. “That’s there.”

When Rizzo gave Williams his first managing job after three seasons as Arizona’s third-base coach, Williams brought along Mark Weidemaier from the Diamondbacks as a coach in charge of defensive positioning and made clear that improving that aspect of the game was a priority.

Williams insisted Wednesday that he can’t imagine the recent trend of errors continuing.

But why have his players made so many?

“I can’t tell you a reason for it. That’s baffling. There’s no real reason, that I can see, because everything is the same as it has been,” Williams said. “They work hard. Nobody’s sitting around doing nothing. So that’s why I think that it will turn. And we’ll do everything we can to make it turn.”

His club entered the series finale against the Angels with an 11-10 record, having lost four of its previous six games.

“I don’t think we’ve played well - yet. That’s what I see. There’s been spots of good. There’s been spots of great. We’ve seen big comebacks and things like that. But over the course of a number of games, I don’t think we’ve put it together. Yet,” Williams said. “I do believe we will.”

NOTES: After watching video, Williams doesn’t think struggling reliever Tyler Clippard is tipping his pitches. “I think he’s missing location,” Williams said. … 3B Ryan Zimmerman, on the 15-day DL with a broken right thumb, is having weekly X-rays to make sure the injury is setting correctly and is “on a normal path,” Williams said. Zimmerman runs on a treadmill in a pool to keep the thumb from jostling. … OF Scott Hairston took early batting practice on the field Wednesday for the first time since going on the DL with a strained side muscle April 6.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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