Nyjer Morgan today played one of his best games of the spring, marked by a rare event. When Morgan came to the plate today in the fifth inning to face right-hander Brett Myers, he had not hit a home run, regular season or otherwise, since July 29, 2009, roughly a month after the Nationals acquired him in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That changed. Morgan drilled a line-drive to right that soared over the portion of the fence with a 330-foot mark, down by the corner. It was not fluky, cheap home run; Morgan crushed it. The blast also scored Alberto Gonzalez and Laynce Nix and gave the Nationals a two-run lead.
Morgan has hit four home runs in his career during the regular season in 1,245 at-bats, about one per every 311. If Morgan took a different approach, he could probably hit a handful of home runs each season. He is hardly 6 feet tall, but there’s a difference between short and small. Morgan, without question, is a strong guy.
But the key to Morgan’s game is getting on-base, which is why his first at-bat of the game was just as encouraging as the home run. Morgan fouled off a few pitches to work a walk, his fourth of the spring. If he has more at-bats like that, he’ll be able to help himself in the center field derby.
>>> Danny Espinosa underwent the scheduled X-rays on his right foot this morning and the results came back negative, just as the Nationals expected. Expect Espinosa, who had to leave the game Tuesday night after fouling a ball off his foot, to miss a few more days. But he should be fine and certainly not affected by the time the seasons starts.
>>> Matt Stairs had his first action of the spring at first base today, which meant he had to pack his first baseman’s glove. Stairs, 43, explained that he has a 2000 model mitt. Then he had to clarify – it was not the popular Wilson A2000, but rather, “the year 2000,” Stairs said.
>>> Sean Burnett had a strange day. Early in the game, a line drive zipped into the bullpen area down the right field line and struck Burnett in the knee. Burnett walked into the dugout with a trainer. He was fine, even pitching one scoreless inning. The Nationals planned for Burnett to pitch two innings, but the wayward liner forced him to throw one, instead. (Cole Kimball got the extra inning, and he struck out three in two innings, throw his fastball between 93 and 95 miles per hour).
Burnett is quietly making a case to be the Nationals’ closer. Burnett was arguably – if not decisively – the Nationals’ best reliever last season with a 2.14 ERA. Over his final 26 1/3 innings, Burnett allowed three earned runs. His raw stuff might not blow anyone away, but he simply knows how to get outs. Burnett has not allowed an earned run or a walk in 5 1/3 innings this spring. He’s been an overlooked pitcher, and I’m going to write more about him soon.