Jim Riggleman giving some Nationals a break
The Nationals are four games into a 15-game stretch with no break, meaning Jim Riggleman will starting looking to give certain players days off. Today, Nyjer Morgan will sit against Brewers left-hander Doug Davis.
"I'm not going to play him 162 games," Riggleman said. "I've got to find him a day every now and then. I hope he plays 140, 145 games."
Riggleman said he wouldn't want to sit Morgan against a right-hander, so the opposing starter has something to do with the timing. But Riggleman is happy with how Morgan has fared against lefties this year and that the day off is more to give him a rest in the middle of the 15-day, 15-game stretch than to have him miss a lefty.
Morgan bristled a bit when asked if his first day out of the starting lineup had anything to do with facing a lefty. entered this season hitting .200 against left-handers with a .302 on-base percentage and a .284 slugging percentage - he had eight extra-base hits in 155 at-bats against lefties. This offseason, Morgan made hitting off lefties an emphasis.
So far, he is 4 for 20, but he has a double, a triple and five walks. Morgan has not crushed left-handers, but he has managed to make an impact against them. For now, in a limited sample size, Morgan's on-base percentage against lefties comes out to .385.
"He's doing a good job," Riggleman said. "The man thing is, he's getting on, creating havoc out there."
Left fielder Josh Willingham, off to a scorching start, may also receive a day off soon. If he doesn't sit once during the Nationals' 15-game stretch, he'll have played the first 22 games of the year without a rest. Willingham's 1.297 OPS ranks fourth in the majors, second in the National League behind Chase Utley. Riggleman wants to keep Willingham fresh enough for him to continue hitting well while not disrupting his rhythm.
"He's seeing the ball real well right now," Riggleman said. "We had a lot of conversations after the year with Josh about trying to figure out when to get him a day off. Because he's a pretty vital player right in the middle of our lineup there, to make sure everything holds up for the long haul. So there's probably going to be a day here in this homestand that we do get him a day."
Also off today is Ian Desmond. In spring training, Riggleman said he wanted Cristian Guzman to be more than a utility player. So far, with help from Ryan Zimmerman's injury, that's held up. Guzman has 38 plate appearances, fifth on the Nationals, one less than Desmond and six more than Adam Kennedy. So far, he has received only a shade less than an everyday player's share of at-bats.
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