Michael Morse moves to cleanup spot, dealing with tightness in hamstring


(Nick Wass/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Morse has been the team’s hottest hitter over the past week, going 13 for 23 with two home runs and six runs batted in. After missing the season’s first 50 games returning from a muscle strain in his side, Morse has recently regained his form at the plate and on Saturday was moved back into the cleanup spot, where he hit most of last season.

“I’m glad he’s being honest with me,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to aggravate it and make it worse so he misses more time.”

Morse said he started feeling tightness in his hamstring during the team’s four-game series in Colorado. He was almost held out of Thursday’s game because of it but was allowed to play if he didn’t aggravate it or run too hard. Before his home run in Friday night’s 5-4 win over of Braves, Morse told Johnson that he felt something in his leg.

Morse has been receiving treatment on this hamstring and Johnson said he would continue to play him. Johnson, however, ordered Morse to warn him the instant it acted up again to prevent it from worsening.

Morse’s recent tear at the plate also prompted Johnson to move the outfielder up from the fifth in the lineup to the cleanup spot held primarily by first baseman Adam LaRoche. Last season, Morse hit a team-high 31 home runs and drove in 95 runs while mainly hitting fourth. In 25 games, Morse is hitting .294/.308/.441 with three home runs and 13 runs batted in.

The move also adds another right-handed bat between left-handers Bryce Harper and LaRoche. Harper has held his own against left-handed pitchers, hitting .264 against them, but has had difficulty with breaking balls away from soft-tossing left-handers. Against right-handers, Harper is hitting .289. LaRoche is hitting both left-handers (.239) and right-handers (.249) fairly equally.

“I like the separating of two batters between Harper and LaRoche,” Johnson said. “Anybody that’s got a left-hander is usually warming him up not just for Harper, although it appears it’s all for Harper, it’s for Harper and LaRoche.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.

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