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Nationals drop struggling Ian Desmond from the leadoff spot

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After going hitless in 12 at-bats during this week’s series against the Phillies, Ian Desmond has been dropped from first to seventh in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Brewers.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman changed his mind about dropping Desmond in the lineup early last week, but tells Paul Tenorio of the Washington Post that he’s hopeful the change will allow him to relax at the plate.

“I just really want to let the attention get off [Desmond] in that spot, let him settle in a little bit deeper in the lineup, take some of that off of him,” Riggleman said. “We thought about doing it earlier and I didn’t, it was only three or four games into the season. Dezzy’s doing fine. He’s going to go through some times like this just like all of them are. Just trying to take a little attention off the leadoff spot for him. He’s a heck of a player and he’s doing some really good things for us out there that are kind of under the radar that people don’t see, but as far as swinging the bat maybe let him relax a little bit deeper in the lineup today.”

Desmond is batting just .180/.212/.300 with a 12/2 K/BB ratio over his first 52 plate appearances this season. He has just 35 walks over his first 715 plate appearances in the big leagues, so he’s hardly an ideal leadoff man.

Danny Espinosa will replace him at the top of the lineup and while he’s a poor bet to maintain his current .281 batting average, he is at least seeing 3.88 pitches per plate appearance so far this season. The Nationals need something to kickstart an offense which is missing third baseman Ryan Zimmerman with an abdominal strain.

Justin Verlander: “I’d like to see the AL and NL have the same rules… I vote NL rules.”

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 10:  Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on August 10, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher Chris Archer asked his Twitter followers, “Lots swirling around what needs to be changed about the game of baseball. What do y’all want to see changed, if anything, & why?”

Tigers ace Justin Verlander responded:

To that, Archer said:

For what it’s worth, Verlander hasn’t been much of a hitter. In 47 career plate appearances, he has three singles and no extra-base hits. And if the AL did get rid of the DH rule, the Tigers would have nowhere to put Victor Martinez. Verlander, though, would have an easier time pitching to opposing pitchers rather than their DH’s.

Rusney Castillo disappoints again by not running out a routine grounder

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 18:  Rusney Castillo #38 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after he was caught off third base for the third out of the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 18, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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The Red Sox inked Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract back in August 2014. Over parts of three seasons, the 29-year-old has a .679 OPS across 337 plate appearances in the majors and spent the vast majority of the 2016 season at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Castillo had a chance to start things off on the right foot in 2017, but that ship has already sailed. On Thursday against Northeastern at JetBlue Park, Castillo didn’t run out a routine ground ball. He claims he lost track of the outs. Manager John Farrell isn’t happy about the situation. Via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald:

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Everyone always makes far too big a deal about running out grounders. It’s a real nit to pick when it’s February 23 and your team just finished playing an exhibition game that is even more meaningless than the other exhibition games that will be played in the coming month.

That being said, Castillo has to prove himself to merit inclusion on the 25-man roster and that means dotting all his i’s and crossing all his t’s. Even if he went hitless all spring, Castillo could have at least said he couldn’t have done anything else better. But on day one, he already gave his team a reason to count him out.