This afternoon, Nationals coaches spoke with minor league instructor Gary Cathcart, who relayed positive signs. Morse threw to bases from the outfield today and “he’s fine,” Johnson said. “He’s been working out with weights. He’s been doing everything you normally do.”
Morse has missed the first two months of the season with a strained right lat muscle that developed early in spring training. Morse has been able to swing with little restriction, but he has been unable to throw with any strength. Morse will serve as the designated hitter tonight in Potomac, and the Nationals plan for him to play the outfield Thursday.
“His timing is a little off” while hitting, Johnson said. “Other than, he’s ready to go. His timetable will probably be speeded up. We’ll see how he does today and tomorrow. He could be back in D.C. soon.”
Johnson had broached the possibility of adding Morse strictly as a pinch-hitter even if he could not throw at 100 percent. But if Morse can play the field Thursday without issue, Johnson would not hesitate to insert Morse into the lineup against the Braves and Mets this coming homestand.
“I’ll throw him right out there,” Johnson said. “If he’s able to go, I’ll throw him in right in the lineup. He might connect, hit one hard. He’ll be a welcome addition. Why waste at-bats in Potomac?”
In Morse, the Nationals will essentially reacquire their best slugger. Last year, in a breakout season, Morse blasted 31 home runs and hit .303/.360/.550 with 95 RBIs. Just as the Nationals’ offense is picking up steam – they’re scoring 4.26 runs per game in May compared to 3.36 in April – they will add a monster middle-of-the-order bat.
When Morse is ready to play every day, Johnson plans to bat him fifth and play him in right field, where he has started 74 games in his career. The Nationals, then, would use a regular outfield of Steve Lombardozzi in left field, Bryce Harper in center and Morse in right. All three would be playing positions they have little experience with, but Johnson is willing to sacrifice defense for offense and, if necessary, use defensive replacements late in games.
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