Before Saturday's game, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman, unprompted, brought up Nyjer Morgan's performance (0 for 3, two strikeouts) the day before, saying Morgan "was pitched extremely tough yesterday."
When I pressed Riggleman further on what he is seeing out of Morgan of late, he said, "I hate when anybody's not getting hits because it can get in your head, but he's working really hard and he's totally receptive to every message I give, or [third base/baserunning coach] Bo Porter gives him about baserunning or [hitting coach] Rick Eckstein. Rick commented yesterday that it was the best batting practice session [Morgan] has had all spring. You try to stay positive, and you just figure he's a career, whatever he is, .285 hitter in the big leagues? [Actually, .283.] That's pretty good. So you can't get too concerned about a few at-bats in spring training. He got pitched tough and he struck out a couple of times."
A few other notes from Riggleman:
*Elvin Ramirez and Henry Rodriguez, the two right-handed pitchers who were late arrivals to camp due to visa issues, are at different places in their relative readiness.
"With Ramirez, our understanding was that he'd been throwing regularly [while awaiting his visa], but when he got here, it didn't appear he had been throwing as much as the other guys. So we're really taking it slow with him. We've pushed some bullpens back. But he's a Rule 5 [draftee], and we need to get a good look at him, so I'm hoping that pretty soon we get him in some games, because we have to make a tough call on him.
Rodriguez came in late, but there doesn't appear to be any questions about him. He's throwing free and easy. It's not game-stuff yet, but he's firing."
*Riggleman has praised Bryce Harper's aggressiveness at the plate, and when I asked whether Harper could use some work on plate discipline and strike-zone awareness in the minor leagues, Riggleman said not necessarily.
"I think he has that. A lot of times you can't really teach that. Experience gives that," Riggleman said. "I think Bryce has been taught the strike zone from a very young age, because he knows the strike zone. Now, he has swung at some breaking balls that were out of the strike zone. But those are nasty pitches that appeared to be strikes and broke out of the zone. But with the fastball, he's made some good decisions on balls and strikes on fastballs."
*Also this morning, taking batting practice against Porter, Harper hit a screaming line drive back through the box that slammed flush into Porter's right shoulder. (For the uninitiated, BP-throwers stand behind an "L" screen that is designed to protect them from exactly this type of incident. But Porter didn't quite get his entire body behind the screen, and he paid for it.) Porter gamely threw a few more pitches, but eventually gave way to a replacement. The ball caught him on the meaty part of his upper arm, and he appeared to be fine. But no doubt he'll be feeling that one for a few days.
*Anybody want a live-blog today?