WASHINGTON -- Of the five players the Nationals promoted to the big leagues Tuesday, shortstop Ian Desmond is the most interesting, because he has made tremendous strides with the bat, hitting a combined .328 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
Nationals bench coach Pat Corrales has said that Desmond, 23, has already shown leadership skills on and off the field.
This may be Desmond's biggest challenge to date. Washington may be looking for a shortstop next season, with the possibility of switching Cristian Guzman from shortstop to second base. The team could also trade Guzman.
"Since [Desmond] came back from the hand injury, he has really progressed the way we thought he would," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He has always been a dynamic defender. He's a very rangy, flamboyant fielder. He has some capabilities. Let's say he is starting to turn the corner."
Desmond, drafted by the Expos in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, started to turn the corner last October, when he went to the Arizona Fall League. With the help of hitting coach Rick Eckstein, Desmond shortened his swing. Suddenly, Desmond started get getting ground-ball base hits instead of a lot of fly-ball outs.
"This is a year where balls fell in," Desmond said. "I changed my approach to the plate. I'm a lot more confident with two strikes. Besides that, I'm just getting hits. I'm hitting the ball on the ground a lot more, which is creating base hits.
"I think I'm a good hitter and a tough out. I think the team didn't want to face me. I'm going to try to get it done in the big leagues."
It looked like Desmond would be in the big leagues before 2009. In his first Spring Training in '05, Desmond impressed the Nationals with his dazzling plays and he hit over .300. Jose Cardenal, the special advisor to the general manager, went so far as to compare Desmond to Derek Jeter.
But Desmond regressed after that because of injuries and problems with the bat.
Asked if he thought it would take this long reach the big leagues, Desmond said, "When he was sending me down [in 2005], Frank Robinson told me, 'By the time you are 22, 23 years old, you are going to be in the [big leagues], kid. Just keep on going.' And I kept my head up. I figured I was going to make it sometime."
And now, Desmond has finally made it the big leagues.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.