Michael Morse pulling was precautionary; Bryce Harper sitting to get Tyler Moore playing time

Michael Morse

Gary Cameron/Reuters

The best clue for Nationals Manager Davey Johnson as to how players are feeling is the trainer’s room. Before games, he likes to swinging by to find out who paid a visit there earlier in the day. At this point of the season everyone is nicked up but they don’t always admit to bumps and bruises  because they want to play.

In the fourth inning of Monday’s game, Johnson pulled Michael Morse as a precaution the moment he caught wind that the outfielder had complained earlier about a sore hand. Following the game, Morse, clearly unhappy that he was taken out, said his hand was fine.

Morse was in Tuesday’s starting lineup against Cubs left-hander Chris Rusin. Johnson again insisted that he was just being cautious on Monday.

“I don’t think he wants to talk to me because I took him out of that game,” Johnson said of Morse on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m always going to be concerned. That one slipped by me a little bit, that he had complained. But I didn’t want him to aggravate it. A guy throwing 96, 97 [mph] that likes to run it inside, not a good time to be up there with a tender thumb.”

For Tuesday’s game, Johnson is resting Bryce Harper, who has had some difficulty in the second half against left-handers, because he wanted to get right-handed batter Tyler Moore some playing time. Moore has played only 17 innings over the past two weeks, pushed to the bench by a healthy outfield rotation. Even in limited action, Moore has been a force, hitting .280 with seven home runs and 22 RBI in 132 at-bats. 

“Kind of running [Harper] in the ground, although I’m sure he’s not tired,” Johnson said. “I think he was a little tired on Sunday for some reason. He felt great yesterday. But tomorrow I’m going to give Werth off. I just going to pick some spots. We’ve had a real tough schedule here lately, weather has been hot and some tough games. So it was either going to be Harper or [Adam] LaRoche today for getting Moore in the lineup. Picked Harper.”

Earlier this season, Harper dealt with a sore back but Johnson said it hasn’t been an issue  of late. LaRoche, however, has been playing a sore back over the past week.

Johnson said it was that time of the year, after two short road trips and in the midst of 13 games in 13 days, to rest some players. Jayson Werth, who has been nursing cramping in his hamstring, is expected to receive a day off on Wednesday and Roger Bernadina to play in his place, Johnson said.

Reliever Sean Burnett is taking strong anti-inflammatory medicine for an irritation in his throwing elbow. In two or three days, Johnson said he would on Burnett to see how he is feeling and evaluate then when he can return to pitching. 

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