Weekend Dish: Aug. 27

See also: Friday's Daily Dish

It's been quite the rough year for Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.

A third-round pick in 2004 out of Sarasota (Fla.) High, Desmond was fast-tracked to Double-A Harrisburg after spending most of the spring in big league camp. That jump came despite the 20-year-old's less than spectacular offensive numbers at low Class A Savannah or high Class A Potomac in 2005.

Desmond struggled mightily in the cold weather at Harrisburg, hitting just .182/.214/.231 and struck out 35 times in 121 at-bats for the Senators and was sent back to Potomac where he hasn't been much better. While he's made some strides over the past month--including a 13-game hit streak--in 324 at-bats, Desmond was hitting at a .238/.311/.367 clip, and had a 74-24 strikeout-walk ratio. In his defense, a back injury that caused him to miss two weeks certainly didn't help, but wasn't the sole reason for his problems against more advanced pitching.

"I had never experienced failure like that and it hit me pretty hard," Desmond told the Washington Times. "I still battled my butt off.

"I wasn't surprised (at the reassignment), but I was a little disappointed. When you do that badly, you just want to prove to people I can do better than that. Age doesn't really matter to me . . . I can hold my own. It is just disappointing. When I was up there [with Harrisburg], I would come out every day and get beat and get beat. It takes a big toll on you. It is hard to stay positive when you take all those extra swings and then nothing."

And though Desmond is known as being a plus defender with good actions, range and plus arm strength at short, he's committed 23 errors with the P-Nats this season (.934). At Harrisburg, Desmond's fielding percentage was .924; he committed 11 errors in 145 total chances.

Add to that the fact the Nationals acquired 26-year-old Felipe Lopez in July and hit the international market hard by signing 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez for $1.4 million and the pressure on Desmond to perform just keeps growing.

"Right know I think Ian is on the right path," Potomac manager Edgar Caceres told the paper. "I think he just needs some more experience and he is going to be pretty good. His hitting is coming around. He made a couple of adjustments with his swing and he is showing a little bit of power at times. He needs a little bit more discipline at the plate and then he should be fine.

"He has the (defensive) ability. He needs to concentrate more and make the routine plays, which he has been doing more. At times he could be better with anticipating ground balls. Right now, he is maybe one step to the left or right from being good--to be able to read balls and get his feet under him. That is what he needs and you get that from experience from playing every day."

Desmond will get more of a chance to play every day after the regular season, though it won't be in the Arizona Fall League. The Nats opted to send Desmond to the Hawaii Winter League, using their two AFL infield spots on first baseman Larry Broadway and 25-year-old shortstop Seth Bynum--whose promotion to Harrisburg in May correlated directly with Desmond's reassignment.

"If I can figure out my offense and be more consistent, who knows?" Desmond told the Times. "My defense feels great, better than ever. I am starting to see light with my offense. If I can keep working and working and have a great offseason, maybe I can come back next year with more consistency and there will be good things."

Sox Capture GCL Title

The first title of the 2006 season has been decided, as the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Red Sox topped the Dodgers in the league's championship series deciding game, 11-2. The two teams had split the first two games of the best-of-three series.

The Sox cranked out 12 hits--including a pair of homers--with first baseman Michael Jones and second baseman Pedro Vasquez both going deep. The two players combined to go 7-for-9 with eight RBIs in the game. Jones, a 25th-round pick in 2004 who signed as a draft-and-follow last season out of Arizona Western Community College, went a perfect 5-for-5.

Righthander Jorge Rodriguez earned the win, allowing just one run on one hit over six innings. The 21-year-old walked three and struck out one.

Dodgers righthander Wayne Renfrow took the loss, allowing four earned runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings.

"People don't realize how difficult that league really is,” Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said. "These guys practice every morning before getting on a bus to play in extreme heat, and they do it every day. It's a challenge for a lot of first-year kids from the U.S. and a lot of Latin players getting their first exposure to the game here.

"So it's extremely rewarding for us to see all the work they put in pay off. We want our players to develop, but to have them develop in a winning atmosphere is something you can’t put a price tag on. It’s special because all the players there have now started out their careers with a championship.”

The Red Sox have two more teams in playoff races, as high Class A Wilmington already earned a spot in the Carolina League postseason by winning the Northern Division’s first half; and Double-A Portland was up two and a half games over Binghamton for the Eastern League wild card.


• The Yankees announced that infielder Eric Duncan will not require surgery on his ailing back. Duncan, the club’s first-round pick in 2003, hasn’t played since Aug. 18 due to a nagging lower disc problem that has bothered him on and off all season. Duncan started the season at Triple-A Columbus, but went on the disabled list before being reassigned to Double-A Trenton. The 21-year-old infielder is still expected to participate in the Arizona Fall League, however, and will likely spend the remainder of the season rehabbing his back in preparation for Arizona.

• Speaking of the Fall League, Major League Baseball announced wholesale changes to the field staff of the Scottsdale Scorpions. High Class A Palm Beach manager Ron Warner (Cardinals) was originally named to manage Scottsdale, but the new skipper announced on Saturday will be low Class A Cedar Rapids manager Bobby Magallanes (Angels). Joining Magallanes will be Double-A Tennessee pitching coach Dan Carlson (Diamondbacks) and Double-A Connecticut hitting coach Gary Davenport (Giants).

• Indians lefthander Chuck Lofgren set the modern record for wins at high Class A Kinston on Saturday. Lofgren, who allowed a run on two hits over six innings, picked up his 16th win of the season, putting him in a three-way tie for the overall minor league lead with Phillies righthander Zach Segovia and Athletics righthander Jason Windsor. The previous Kinston was 15 wins, set by righthander Brian Slocum in 2004. On the season, Lofgren, a fourth-round pick in 2004, is now 16-5, 2.42 in 134 innings.

• Sticking in the Carolina League, Myrtle Beach catcher Clint Sammons delivered a game-winning grand slam in the 13th inning off Frederick righthander Manny Basilio to give the Pelicans an 8-3 victory over the Keys on Saturday. Sammons, a 2004 sixth-rounder out of Georgia, was hitting .246/.316/.388 with eight homers in 345 at-bats.

• Red Sox 2005 first-rounder Michael Bowden followed 2005 first-round supplemental pick Clay Buchholz to high Class A Wilmington, where the righthander made his debut for the Blue Rocks on Saturday. Bowden allowed five runs on nine hits and struck out three in Wilmington’s 9-7 win against Lynchburg. Prior to his promotion, Bowden went 9-6, 3.51 with 118 strikeouts in 108 innings at low Class A Greenville.

• Rangers righthander Armando Galarraga made another step back from his extended bout with elbow soreness on Saturday, making his first start at high Class A Bakersfield. Galarraga, who began the year at Double-A Frisco, allowed five runs on a pair of hits and walked four in the Blaze’s 7-6 loss to Inland Empire. Since returning from the DL, Galarraga made six starts in the Rookie-level Arizona League (0-2, 3.31 in 16 innings), and one start at short-season Spokane before being brought up to the Cal League.

• Mets righthander Deolis Guerra dealt in the low Class A South Atlantic League, posting 6-7, 2.20 numbers in 82 innings at Hagerstown. The 17-year-old righthander struggled through his debut at high Class A St. Lucie however, allowing four runs on four hits, walking four and whiffing three over just 2 1/3 innings of the Mets’ 4-2 loss to Daytona.

• Orioles righthander Hayden Penn continues his quiet mastery at Triple-A Ottawa. Penn scattered five hits over eight shutout innings in the Lynx’ 9-0 win against Syracuse on Saturday, striking out 10 in the process. Penn threw 110 pitches--84 for strikes. While he had to battle surgery for appendicitis earlier this season that prevented his return to the big leagues, Penn is now 7-4, 2.26 with an 85-27 strikeout-walk ratio in 88 innings at Ottawa.

• Keeping on the Orioles tip, Double-A Bowie outfielder Jeff Fiorentino extended his hit streak to 16 games, going 6-for-14 with a homer and four RBIs over the weekend. Fiorentino, who played through various injuries over the course of the year, has upped his overall numbers to .273/.366/.420 in 374 at-bats.

• Wrapping up the weekend, we turn to the short-season New York-Penn League, where 21-year-old righthander Bud Norris turned in gem in Tri-City's 5-3 win against Vermont. Norris, the Astros' sixth-round pick this year out of Cal Poly, allowed a run on two hits and struck out 13 in just five innings. On the season, Norris is 2-0, 4.24 with a 40-12 strikeout-walk ratio in 34 innings.