By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 28, 2009
CHICAGO, Aug. 27 -- Nobody on the Washington Nationals can run as fast as Nyjer Morgan, steal as many bases, cover as much ground in the outfield, drop down as many bunt hits, or cause as many headaches for opposing pitchers. But somehow, the Nationals now must replace their leadoff man and center fielder.
Morgan will miss the rest of the season after breaking his left hand in Thursday afternoon's 5-4 win against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Back in the lineup after missing two games with the flu, Morgan -- before the injury -- provided a quick glimpse of his value. He walked to start the first inning, then stole two bases and scored.
The injury, though, occurred when Morgan jammed his left hand during a head-first slide into third base. When the inning ended, Willie Harris replaced Morgan in center.
By the time the game ended, Washington already knew the bleak prognosis. Morgan's injury -- technically a fracture of the second metacarpal -- will keep him out for six weeks. As the Nationals resume their road trip in St. Louis, Morgan will fly back to Washington and visit with hand specialist Tim Graham. Morgan, hours after the injury, already had his left hand heavily bandaged. He used his teeth to yank the sleeves of his hooded sweatshirt.
"It's broke, guys," Morgan said to the media. "And I'm done for the year."
"It hurts," General Manager Mike Rizzo said. "It's a stumble for us. But Willie has been out there before Nyjer got here. Willie is gonna be out there again; we'll give him a chance to step up."
After being acquired on June 30 in a four-player trade with Pittsburgh, Morgan quickly became one of Washington's most indispensable players. His outfield range benefited those in left and right, and won the appreciation of the pitching staff. With the Nationals, Morgan compiled a .351 average (67 for 191) and stole 24 bases.
The Nationals are not yet sure of a corresponding roster move. They could consider Class AAA outfielder Justin Maxwell, a smooth fielder who has had two stints with Washington this season.
"Corresponding move, we're still not sure yet," Rizzo said. "[Interim manager Jim Riggleman] and I will talk on the plane and we'll have a corresponding move tomorrow."Hoping to Stick Around
Pitcher Liván Hernández, back with the Nationals after serving as their ace in 2005 and 2006, wants to use his final month of this season to audition for a role with the team in 2010, he said.
"That's what I want. I'd love to be here next year," Hernández said. "It's something I've been waiting for, coming to D.C., the last three years."