The Nationals entered spring training with Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond at the top of their order, but less than a week into the season, Morgan is long gone and Desmond has been dropped to seventh following an 0-for-13 start.
Desmond, who moved up to the leadoff spot when Morgan was traded to Milwaukee last month, failed to reach base safely during the season opening three-game series against the Braves. He also fanned three times as the Nationals dropped two of three games.
Switching spots with Desmond will be usual No. 7 hitter Danny Espinosa, who has opened the season 4-for-9 with a pair of doubles.
As close as the two are as hitters, it does make sense for Jim Riggleman to go with the hot hand here. My Rotoworld projections called for Espinosa to hit .242/.321/.407 this season, with Desmond at .267/.331/.404. The two were also remarkably similar this spring: both hit .290 and slugged .435. Desmond had the slightly better OBP (.364 to .353), but Espinosa more than made up for that by going 4-for-4 as a basestealer, while Desmond was 2-for-5.
Last night’s Angels-Astros game was a long affair with a bunch of homers and the use of 11 pitchers in all. The Angels used six pitchers and all of that business led to plenty of conferences. Six, in fact, which is their allotment under the new rule capping mound visits. As far as I can tell, that makes the Angels the first team to use up all of their mound visits since the advent of the rule.
Sadly, they did not try to go for a seventh, thereby testing the currently unknown limits of the rule. Umpires have been instructed to not allow additional mound visits, but they cannot issue balls or tackle anyone or anything to enforce it. Presumably, if Maldonado had walked out to talk to Cam Bedrosian about the weather or where he was going to dinner after the game, the home plate umpire would’ve simply done the old Robin Williams English policeman’s bit of yelling “Stop! . . . or I shall yell ‘Stop!’ again!” Maybe a fine would issue later, but we’ll never know.
At least until someone breaks the limit. And we know someone will, right? We should have a betting pool on who does it.