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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 06/01/2012

How will Michael Morse’s return change the Nationals?


Based on what I saw last night and what he said afterward, my hunch is Michael Morse will join the Nationals tonight. The Nationals had not decided anything as of last night, but even if Morse is not there tonight when the Nationals open a homestand against the Braves, he will arrive soon, at the latest June 8 in Boston.

The question, then, is what kind of impact Morse will have. The Nationals have undeniably missed his bat; what team would not miss a masher who clobbered 31 homers and slugged .550 and reached base at a .364 clip? Thing is, the Nationals had started to come around even without him. In May, the Nationals ranked 17th in the majors in runs scored. Nothing special, but at 4.2 runs per game, it represented a significant improvement.

Morse will make the lineup deeper, providing right-handed protection for Adam LaRoche. He may take time to settle in. Morse hit the ball to the opposite field in the majority of his rehab plate appearances. One opposing scout at last night’s game said Morse’s looked slow, but not alarmingly so. “It’ll come,” the scout said.

With Morse back, the lineup will likely look like this most nights:

1. Steve Lombardozzi, LF

2. Bryce Harper, CF

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Michael Morse, RF

6. Ian Desmond, SS

7. Danny Espinosa, 2B

8. Jesus Flores, C

9. Pitcher

The Nationals are sacrificing Rick Ankiel’s defense with that outfield but Manager Davey Johnson is content to play his best offensive lineup in an effort to get a lead and then use defensive replacements late in games. Ankiel will likely see action off the bench late in games when the Nationals lead, moving Harper to right, Morse to left and Lombardozzi either out of the game or to second base, depending on the game situation and the double-switch scenarios.

That lineup gives the Nationals serious home run threats in spots two through five, and both Desmond and Espinosa have shown they are capable of going on homer binges. The lineup really starts to look a lot deeper with Morse in the fold.

The Nationals’ offense is not quite whole, and will not be until Jayson Werth returns from his broken wrist in another two months or so. But once Morse returns, maybe as soon as tonight, it is much, much closer.

FROM THE POST

Steve Lombardozzi has become a crucial player for the Nationals after a humble, hard-working start at Atholton High.

Sheinin has the story of local product Mike Kent, a Clemson pitcher who donated stem cells to his ailing brother.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Morse feels ready

Strasburg, pitchers can hit

Espinosa shows progress

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse was postponed

Portland 7, Harrisburg 2: Eury Perez went 3 for 4 with a double and a walk. Paul Demny allowed five runs in five innings on 12 hits and no walks, striking out three.

Potomac 4, Myrtle Beach 2: Justin Bloxom went 3 for 4 with a home run and a double. Zach Walters went 4 for 4. Matt Swynenberg allowed two runs in six innings on seven hits and no walks, striking out four.

Hagerstown 12, Delmarva 0: Brian Goodwin went 1 for 3 with three walks. Billy Burns went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Matt Skole went 1 for 4 with a home run. Jason Martinson went 1 for 4 with a home run. Caleb Ramsey went 3 for 5 with a double. Justin Miller went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a walk. Nathan Karns allowed no runs in six innings on three hits and three walks, striking out four.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 06/01/2012

 
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