With Jayson Werth having returned from the rest mandated by Manager Davey Johnson, the Nationals are using a combination in left and center field that will likely become commonplace for the rest of the season – and perhaps next season, too.
Werth will play center, where the Nationals currently have a 2012 need, and Michael Morse will play left, where the Nationals are likely to move him when Adam LaRoche returns to first base next season.
When the Nationals signed Werth this offseason, General Manager Mike Rizzo touted Werth’s ability to play center as one reason for the acquisition. Werth, who frequently filled in for Shane Victorino in center field when he played for the Phillies, can envision himself as an everyday center fielder in 2012 if the Nationals choose to have him fill that role.
“I feel like I’m capable,” Werth said. “I think I could be a good center fielder.”
Morse has played left field the past three games, his first action in the outfield since mid-May, when he took over at first for LaRoche. Morse has taken a few adventurous routes to ball, but that may be part of re-acclimating in the outfield.
“I think he’s getting more comfortable,” Johnson said. “I know he’s working real hard on breaks and getting used to running more. Sometimes you can get a little lazy just having a few shuffles and then getting back to first. But he’s a good athlete.”
Morse was an outstanding first baseman, but his skills may not translate to the outfield. He has an accurate arm and he catches everything he reaches, but he lacks range. In his career, judging by Ultimate Zone Rating, the catch-all defensive metric, Morse ranks 13 runs below average per 150 games because of his range.
“I think he’s been average,” Johnson said. “I’m not worried about it. He used to be a shortstop. He may have put on a few pounds moving to the retirement home, first base.”
Morse could well improve with experience, and even if he does not he would make up for his defense with his powerful bat. The position switch has not slowed More offensively, as he’s drilled two homers in those three games in left.