Mike Morse is playing right, for what it's Werth
During batting practice this evening, as both teams mingled behind the batting cage, one No. 28 approached the other No. 28. Mike Morse, long hair curling from under his cap, wanted to speak with Jayson Werth, long hair curling from under his cap.
"All right, man, what else do I need?" Morse asked Werth. "I got the hair. I got the number. I'm playing right [field] today. What else do I need to do?"
During the Nationals' opening series, Morse can watch the other team's right fielder and see the best-case scenario for his own career come to life. When the Nationals traded Ryan Langerhans for Morse last year, they did so because they believed if Morse reached his full potential, he could be another Jayson Werth.
Werth (6 feet 5, 220 pounds) was drafted in the first round in 1997 as a catcher. He struggled to find a position and did not reach the majors until 2002, when he was on his second team and had been moved to the outfield. He would not get at least 300 plate appearances until 2004, and he did not become a true regular until 2008, when he was on his fourth team, a team that won the World Series. Last year, he was an all-star and finished 17th in MVP voting.
Morse (6-5, 230) was drafted in the third round in 2000 as a shortstop. He struggled to find a position and did not reach the majors until 2005, when he was on his second team and about to be moved to the outfield. Now on his third team, he has still not made 300 plate appearances in a season or become a true regular. Last year, he met Werth for the first time.
"Actually, he's one of my favorite players in the game," Morse said. "I like the way he plays. He plays hard. He's a great hitter. He's been with teams and stuff, and he had a long road to get to where he's at, too. Guys like him, guys like Raul Ibanez, it brings me hope."
Morse is starting tonight, and he will be a regular piece in the right field platoon. Against left-handed starters, Manager Jim Riggleman will weigh whether to play Willy Taveras or Morse on a daily basis. He'll determine a starter based partly on their history against the pitcher and on defense.
"Certainly, there's some thought to it each day," Riggleman said.
For tonight, even though Taveras is the more experienced outfielder, Jason Marquis is a groundball pitcher and therefore places less of a premium on outfield defense. Also, Taveras was 1 for 9 in his career against Phillies starter Cole Hamels.
So Morse will play tonight, the same position as one of his favorite players. For the record, he swears his switch from No. 12 with the Mariners to 28 with the Nationals was a coincidence.
"I remember I was talking to somebody," Morse said. "They said, 'You need a bigger number.' I was 12 in Seattle. I'm not an infielder anymore. I needed a bigger number. Twenty-eight? Jayson Werth? I mean, come on."
* * *
Cristian Guzman may become another member of the right field platoon soon. He was shagging flies four hours before the game tonight, sweating through 90-degree heat. The work impressed Rigglemam, who said, "Pretty soon, I'll put him out there, too."
Riggleman wants Guzman to start somewhere to keep his bat fresh, and he plans on putting Guzman at shortstop either Thursday or Friday.
April 7, 2010; 7:07 PM ET
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