UPDATE, 12:15: After tonight’s 4-2 win over the Phillies, following further treatment, Morse expected to start Saturday night. “I should be good, 100 percent,” he said . ....
After a scare Thursday afternoon when a fastball drilled him in elbow, Michael Morse will not spend much time out of the Nationals lineup. He is shooting for a return from the contusion on his left elbow by Saturday’s game, and he said he could pinch-hit tonight.
Morse said he planned on taking batting practice, but after fielding groundballs at first base he did not take any swings in the cage. It’s not clear what means for his status, but it was most a likely a precaution. The Nationals still think he has a chance to play tomorrow, but they probably won’t pinch-hit him tonight barring necessity.
Manager Davey Johnson said Morse still had some trouble fully straightening his arm. Morse iced his elbow all day and did stretching exercises to improve the range of motion. Morse will also wear an elbow pad, adding to the forearm armor he began wearing after a fastball drilled him there in July.
“You have to get used to it, for sure,” Morse said. “You do what you got to do.”
Despite Morse not taking batting practice today, the bruise shouldn’t be a long-term issue. After yesterday, that was a relief to Morse. The pain, which came on a 91-mph fastball by Ryan Dempster, caused him to double over once he reached first base. He left the game and received X-rays at a local hospital. The results were negative.
“It me right on the bone,” Morse said. “There’s a lot of nerves or something. It hurt, but I’m glad nothing’s wrong. I’ll just play through the pain. There’s nothing wrong, so you can play through the pain and not hurt anything. It felt weird, because my arm kept twitching.”
Morse has become an invaluable piece of the Nationals’ lineup. If you extrapolate Morse’s numbers since he took over full-time at first base May 22 over a full season, he would hit .342 with 42 home runs and 132 RBIs. Those totals would have won the Triple Crown in 2010.
With Morse out, Jonny Gomes will bat cleanup because, “he’s hit lefties this year better than [Jayson] Werth,” Manager Davey Johnson said.
Laynce Nix will play first base. He also finished yesterday’s game there, making a sensational diving play only to watch reliever Todd Coffey drop his throw while covering first base. Nix played two games at first base earlier in the season and has continued to take groundballs there once a week or so. He hasn’t exactly grown expert at the position.
“I wouldn’t say comfortable,” Nix said. “I haven’t played any since those two games. But I feel okay just playing with my instincts. I’m not trying to out-think it or do any extra.”
Though he had not played first base before this season since high school, Nix could see himself adding the position to his abilities. He still sees himself as an outfield primarily, but could play first as well in future seasons.
“Hopefully, it’ll work out that way,” Nix said. “I don’t want to stop playing out there in the outfield. I want to continue to play if I’m healthy. But if I can play first every now and then, it’s great.”
Nix has been playing through a sore Achilles’ heel, an injury that has not gotten any better for just about the whole season. Nix is confident the injury will not require surgery after the season, only rest.
“It’ll heal with about a month off,” Nix said. “I just need to stop playing on it, and it’ll be just fine. It won’t be a big issue unless I do further damage to it before the season is over.”
In the first lineup the Nationals made, Brian Bixler was playing first base. The original lineup contained Bixler only because of a miscommunication with bench coach Pat Corrales, who physically writes the lineup on the card.