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Baker, Nats satisfied with Difo's CF debut

Infielder called up from Triple-A before Friday's game for first career start in center field
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Wilmer Difo's first career start in center field started off a bit rough, as he seemed unsure or tentative on whether he should go after a few fly balls. He had only received a two-game crash course at the position in the Minors before he was called up from Triple-A Syracuse prior to Friday's game against the Reds to start in center field.

Difo played center field for six of the 10 innings it took for the Nats to come away with a 6-5 victory, but it was enough for Nats manager Dusty Baker to come away satisfied with the experiment.

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WASHINGTON -- Wilmer Difo's first career start in center field started off a bit rough, as he seemed unsure or tentative on whether he should go after a few fly balls. He had only received a two-game crash course at the position in the Minors before he was called up from Triple-A Syracuse prior to Friday's game against the Reds to start in center field.

Difo played center field for six of the 10 innings it took for the Nats to come away with a 6-5 victory, but it was enough for Nats manager Dusty Baker to come away satisfied with the experiment.

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"He was pretty good," Baker said. "I got him out of there when I thought the time was right. He's learning, too; a lot of these guys are. We're still teaching as we play."

Difo's only outfield experience in the Majors came earlier this year when he played left field for just two innings. But it's a challenge he said he enjoys. When asked before the game about the biggest challenge going from the infield to the outfield, Difo gave a wide smile.

"I don't know," he said. "I'll see tonight."

That Difo was being called into action in the outfield was a result of an injury to Michael Taylor, the nature of which Baker declined to disclose. Baker only offered that Taylor, who took batting practice and fielded fly balls prior to the game, was "hurting but feels better," and would receive treatment during the game. Taylor was then able to make a pinch-hit appearance in the 10th, and struck out swinging.

"The opposition don't need to know where," Baker said before the game. "Certain things are our business. Everything's not the world's business."

Taylor's injury aside, the Nationals' outfield options are limited at the moment.

They were carrying a short bench before Friday, but optioned right-hander A.J. Cole to Syracuse to return to a traditional five-man bench. But with Brian Goodwin filling in in left field while Jayson Werth is on the disabled list and Ryan Raburn's dramatic splits against left-handers over right-handers, Baker is limited in his options.

That's why Difo started Friday despite his lack of experience. The Nationals have seen Difo as a potential utility player for some time now, and wanted him to play outfield during winter ball. But he did not, and did not get many reps during Spring Training, so Baker planned to position him well enough to make up for his lack of experience.

Washington is hoping for a repeat from last season, when the club converted Trea Turner to the outfield after about a week of learning the position in the Minors, and he played the position adequately.

Baker came away pleased with the outing even though he found a few teachable moments for Difo, who misplayed a ball into a double during the Reds' four-run first inning.

"A lot of times, like I said before, you don't know what they don't know," Baker said. "We don't give a baseball aptitude test here. You don't know what they don't know until something happens in the game and then you have to explain it to him."

Worth noting 
• Werth is still unable to put full weight on his injured left foot, but is out of his walking boot and Baker said he is making good progress.

• Left-hander Sammy Solis (left elbow inflammation) completed back-to-back outings before an off-day Thursday and Baker said he is "getting very close" to a return.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Wilmer Difo