Michael Morse is returning for tonight’s game against Philadelphia, and after being out of the starting lineup yesterday for a second straight game and missing Roy Halladay’s turn for the Phillies, he’ll instead get to face Cliff Lee, another front-line starter who would be No. 1 on most other clubs.
Morse initially was unavailable because of illness, but Manager Jim Riggleman indicated he sat out his left fielder another day to give him extra rest and to get Lance Nix more at-bats.
After a torrid spring, Morse has cooled off considerably. He’s batting just .148 this season, and he’ll hit in the sixth slot tonight as opposed to fifth in the order, where he began the season.
“I think Mike’s going to be all right,” Riggleman said. “He was so hot during the spring, and it’s hard to stay that hot. You always want to give your best at-bats throughout the spring, and I think it can get in your head a little bit that you want to save some of these hits, you know, and I think he’s got a little of that going.”
Morse homered twice in the Nationals’ first spring training game and continued on that heated pace to claim the starting job in left. He finished the spring batting .364 with nine homers, 18 RBI and a 1.24 OPS in 21 games. Then the regular season started, and Morse has been trying to recapture the form that made him among the talk of the team in Viera, Fla.
Morse hit .289 with 15 home runs in 293 plate appearances last season, and based on that encouraging showing as a part-time player, the Nationals wanted to get him more at-bats this season. So far he has just four hits in 27 at-bats, with no home runs and three RBI.
Morse actually has put up respectable numbers (2 for 7) in limited at-bats against Lee, the 2008 AL Cy Young winner with Cleveland who in his last start was rocked for six runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
“I think he’s cooled off a bit, and he’s going to get hot again,” Riggleman said of Morse. “He’s too good a hitter to not go out there and get it going here pretty soon, and we fully expect it will be real soon.”