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What using a designated hitter means for the Nationals

With their first game this year in an American League stadium coming tonight, the Nationals will use a designated hitter for the first time this year. Manager Jim Riggleman said he'll rotate the spot over the six games in Cleveland and Detroit - maybe Adam Dunn one day, Cristian Guzman the next, Josh Willingham the next, and on down the line, anyone whom he feels needs some rest.

As the Nationals start playing in AL parks, Mike Michael Morse is emerging at the right time. With his versatility, he could DH himself, play the field in left for Willingham or play first for Dunn. Morse went 3 for 3 last night, including a solo home run in the eighth that he crushed to straightaway center.

It was somewhat forgotten because of how the game ended, but Morse also gave the Nationals a potential victory with his two-run double Sunday in the bottom of the ninth that sent the game to extra innings. Morse also started another would-be game-winning rally last week in Houston with a single up the middle.

The hits have added up. In limited time, Morse is 10 for 24 this year with three walks - a .417 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage and a .583 slugging percentage. Under normal circumstances it would be difficult for Riggleman to give Morse more playing time; Roger Bernadina has strengthened his grip on the regular right field spot by going 10 for his last 27 and playing sometimes-spectacular defense.

With the DH at his disposal, though, Riggleman can find give his best hitters rest while keeping them in the lineup and find more at-bats Morse, the hottest hitter the Nats have on their bench.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 11, 2010; 1:57 PM ET
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I think Morse has to be given a chance as an everyday player in right field. I think he maybe our best option at this point.

Posted by: Tom8 | June 11, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

So it's not Michael anymore? Did I miss the memo?

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 11, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

LOVED last night's lineup. They should DH Morgan and keep Bernadina in center and Morse in right. Morgan has proven he is not a major league center fielder. THere was a play last night that Bernadina made that probably no one even remembers. But if Morgan was in there, it would have been a negative game-changing mistake made. That's what Morgan does in center.
Anyway keep Morse playing.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 11, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"Morgan has proven he is not a major league center fielder"

Alas, at .662 OPS, he's not a major league DH either.

Posted by: HHover | June 11, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Why does Morgan have a lock on the CF job?He had a great half-year in 2009 after coming over from Pittsburgh; he has regressed in every phase of his game this year, and, with no previous track record of MLB performance, we have no assurance he'll return to last year's level. Bernadina, meanwhile, has given indications that he can play CF better than Morgan and is hitting well now. And, as AK suggests, Morse's hot bat should be in the lineup regularly--why not see how he handles RF?

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | June 11, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, it is not hard to find Morse regular at bats if they play him in RF and Bernadina in CF most days... let Nyger by the 4th OF, he is cut out for that role... we need to get some more power in this lineup, we can't have Nyger's 0 homers in the lineup unless he has an OBP over .350 and is stealing lots of bases... instead, he is struggling to get on base, is hit or miss on the bases, and has looked clueless at times in the OF...

I like Nyger! But, would like to see him go back to the role he was made for, a 4th OF who can provide a spark from time to time...

This is close to a necessity at this point... Zimm/Dunn/Hammer have been carrying the offense, we just have to get more power into the lineup somehow... you can see last night how much that paid off!

Posted by: Ghost7 | June 11, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that Adam Kennedy wasn't mentioned. I feel bad for him. He's been getting about an at-bat per game. You'd think that he'd start to get a little more playing time now that Cristian Guzman's bat has cooled, but Riggs has his guys and I'm sure we'll continue to hear about Guz's bat until long after it's gone completely silent.

Posted by: rnkorby | June 11, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

And, right, I agree... this year I like what I see from Bernadina playing D in center better then what I've seen from Morgan... there was that last out of the 8th inning last night, Doumit crushed a pitch to deep right center field... Bernadina went back and found the wall and then settled under it for the catch... Nyger easily could have turned that into an adventure as he just is not good at going back on balls...

Posted by: Ghost7 | June 11, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"Zimm/Dunn/Hammer have been carrying the offense"

Did anyone else realize that Zimm, Hammer and Dunn are 1st, 5th and 7th respectively in the NL in OPS this season?

And for my fellow statheads, their weighted on-base averages are 1st, 2nd and 7th.

They've been a latter-day murderer's row!

Posted by: rnkorby | June 11, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, and the standard lineup includes Guzman/Morgan/Pudge/Bernadina/Starting Pitcher... who between the 5 of them, 5 lineup spots, have 3 freaking homers all year between them... even adding Desmond in there and you get 7 total homers out of 6 lineup spots... Zimm/Dunn/Hammer have been sick... but they need help!

Posted by: Ghost7 | June 11, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Agree on Guzzie. He was floundering at bat last night. Perfect time for Kennedy to jump in at 2B and contribute.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | June 11, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it amazing what one clean sweep of the Bucos can do for ones spiratual, mental and physical well-being. My lunch even tastes better. Ahh I'm finally starting to wipe that Houston debris outta my soul.
It's just amazing how one bad series can bury you so deep it takes forever to climb back out of.
If we take 2 of 3 from the Indians,and that's not a given, we're simply finally back to .500.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 11, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

It's Nyjer Morgan. J, not G.

Posted by: cassander | June 11, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Why rotate the DH at all? Why not DH Guzman the whole time and take the much needed defensive upgrade for 6 games with Kennedy or Gonzalez at 2B and Bernadina or Morse in RF, both depending on whether the starter is a lefty or righty?

Posted by: zaph | June 11, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

What happened to Morgan exactly?

Posted by: alex35332 | June 11, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"What happened to Morgan exactly?"

One day he was hanging out in center field, ready to make a spectacular play just like it was last year, and then all of a sudden it dawned on him: "What the ...?! I'm a hockey player! What is this grass cr@p? Where's the ice? Where are my skates? Help!!"

Posted by: joebleux | June 11, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

There's no way they're going to go and bench Morgan yet. I agree that Bernadina has potential in CF, but maybe we should see him do a bit more before we bench Morgan for Roger and Mike Morse. Come on.

Remember that Nyjer batted .307 .369 with 42 SB last year over 469AB. A significant sample size.

Maybe he never plays to that level again, but I'll bet the Nats management give him plenty of time to try to play his way out of his slump, and they should. I don't like the way he's been playing either, but I personally hope we stick with him and he comes around.

Posted by: autobits | June 11, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Kind of a non-sequitor, but I wanted to bring up Willingham flying under the radar (not so much with NJ'ers, but with the casual fan). I've been to about 10 games this season, including last night's, and Willingham seems to get a polite golf clap when he's introduced or comes to the plate. I cheer loudly for him, but seem to be one of the few. It's a far more subdued cheering than several other players on the Nats receive. You would never know from the crowd response to him that he leads the team in RBI's and the LEAGUE in OBP, not to mention the many clutch RBI's he's had this year at the end of games. Just wanted to add my 2 cents to how good a season the Hammer is having without getting much attention outside of the Journal.

Posted by: slewis1 | June 11, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

@alex35332 - the better question is what happened to him when he got here last year. He hit over .50 points higher than ever before. I'm sure he's better than what his current play shows but he's still the 2nd best CF they have on the roster.

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 11, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I threw his stats into a graphic and it looks t me that everything more or less went down hill starting around May 6th.

Posted by: alex35332 | June 11, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

@sjt1455 - I assume that you mean that Bernadina is our best CF, but why? If you mean in the field then OK, I think Bernadina is a better defensive player, though I also think Morgan is a fine defender when he's on his game.

Otherwise though this comparison is not even close. Morgan as a .291BA and .352OBP over almost 1,000AB. Bernadina has hit .247 and .324 over only 190AB.

If you are going to throw out Nyjer's 50(!) game hot streak last year then you have to at least throw out Roger's recent 10+ games as well. Outside of that Roger doesn't look like much of a hitter at all, more like Anderson Hernandez.

Now I'm not trying to hate on Roger. I think he might be learning to handle MLB hitting, and might be a decent regular in CF at some point. Just remember who your comparing him to if you are going to talk about track records.

Posted by: autobits | June 11, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

@autobits - "historical results do not guarantee future preformance" as EF Hutton might have said. My opinion is based on what I see when I watch the games. I'm not trying to hate on Morgan, just the way I see it right here, right now.

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 11, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

@sjt1455 - I agree with that completely. I guess I mostly take issue with rating him behind Bernadina who at best can only be said to be playing better than Morgan right now.

Morgan has flat out stunk this year, but I think I might modify Hutton's statement in answer by saying "current results do not guarantee future performance". That can be applied to both Morgan and Bernadina.

A couple of months from now Morgan may be on fire, and we'll all praise Riggleman and Rizzo for sticking it out with him...or maybe he'll still stink and turn into Willy Taveras part deux. Who knows?

I know that what I saw on the field last year at least merits a continuation of the experiment. This is his first year where a team has committed to him full time in CF. Let's see what happens over a full season before we write him off as no better than a 4th OF.

Posted by: autobits | June 11, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

@autobits - fair enough, but lets wait a few full seasons. We'll meet at the Red Loft opening day 2015 and see who was right. I'll be wearing my 2014 Nats World Series hat.

In the meantime, as long as they are wearing the Nat's uniform, I'll root for them both.

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 11, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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