ATLANTA -- Ian Desmond, who committed a costly error in the series opener against the Braves, was on the bench for the second time in three games on Tuesday night.
Both general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman remain firmly in the rookie shortstop's corner, but Desmond is undergoing growing pains, as his 19 errors attest. No one in the Majors has more.
Alberto Gonzalez, the Nationals' steadiest middle infielder, played shortstop, as he had on Sunday in Baltimore, and Cristian Guzman returned to the lineup at second base.
After Monday night's loss, in which Desmond booted a potential double-play grounder that could have prevented the Braves' five-run outburst, Riggleman supported the athletic 24-year-old.
"I don't want him to agonize over particular plays and stuff," Riggleman said. "I just want him to use it as a learning experience and get better at it on a daily basis. ... I'll take nine of him."
Even after leaving Desmond out of the opening lineup Tuesday, Riggleman remained full of praise.
"Desi is going to be a special player here for the next 10 or 12 years," he said.
But Riggleman said that he was keeping Gonzalez, who played second base on Monday night, in the lineup to "get some rust off him. It just felt like a good day to keep Gonzalez in the lineup somewhere."
Rizzo also remains sold on Desmond's potential.
"He's a terrific talent," Rizzo said on Tuesday. "Shortstop is a tough position, and all young players are prone to mistakes there. But he gets to more balls than anyone in the league. He's the talk of every team we play, and we like his progress. It's just unfortunate when he makes an error at a key time as he's learning. But he's a confident kid and always keeps his head up."