Desmond earns Nationals' starting shortstop gig

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desmond infield.JPGUPDATE: Guzman took the decision in stride and told Ladson that he is “willing to do anything the Nats ask of him.”  He will not demand a trade.

SATURDAY, 10:41pm:’s Bill Ladson passes along some refreshing news out of Nationals camp.  According to team sources, 24-year-old prospect Ian Desmond has captured the club’s Opening Day shortstop gig from Cristian Guzman.

Desmond, a third-round pick in 2007, has moved swiftly through the Nats’ farm system.  He posted a .330/.401/.477 batting line last season with seven homers, 32 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 394 plate appearances between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.

We’re sure to see some rough patches from Desmond, who hasn’t appeared in more than 25 major league games, but manager Jim Riggleman has been praising the youngster all spring and obviously has faith that he will adjust to full-time big league life with little effort.  Guzman will probably be relegated to a utility infield role, or perhaps Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo will attempt a trade.  The 32-year-old hit an ugly .284/.306/.390 last season with six home runs and 52 RBI in 531 at-bats.  He’s been dealing with a balky shoulder for most of spring training.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.