The Nationals traded Nyjer Morgan to Milwaukee nine days ago, confident they had enough other options to man both their center-field and leadoff spots without the enigmatic outfielder. And while that may be true in center, it hasn't been true at the top of the lineup.
Washington used its second leadoff hitter of the season on Tuesday, batting Jerry Hairston in the spot in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Marlins. Second baseman Danny Espinosa will become the third leadoff man of the season when he hits there on Wednesday. And when he starts that game, the Nationals still won't have a hit in 18 plate appearances from the leadoff spot.
Manager Jim Riggleman said the plan all along has been to use Espinosa and Ian Desmond, who started the first three games of the season, interchangeably in the spot. Both players got days off on Tuesday, and Desmond will hit seventh against the Marlins on Wednesday.
"When we made the trade with Nyjer Morgan, we discussed the leadoff spot, and we kind of put a blank at one and seven, with both names off to the side, just kind of using them interchangeably," Riggleman said. "We'll try to get Ian away from the feeling of, he's got to get it started for us, walking up to the plate as the first guy. I've kind of had a little luck with that through the years with some players if they were struggling with that."
The flaw in the Nationals lineup isn't a new one, though; Morgan got on base at just a .319 clip last year, and though Espinosa had a solid .365 on-base percentage in the minors, neither he nor Desmond has done the job in the majors.
On Wednesday, the Nationals will continue their tinkering with a spot that already looks like a problem.
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