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Michael Morse's breakout , season apparently over a day early

For the past month and a half, Michael Morse has been the most productive hitter on the Nationals. Since Josh Willingham's knee surgery claimed his season and opened an everyday spot for Morse, Morse has a .937 OPS, the best on the team.

His season, and especially the recent stretch, has proven to Morse he can play every day in the majors league. And now it may end one day early.

After Morse hit the 15th home run of his season Saturday, he left the game with a tight hamstring. In the sixth inning, Morse blasted an 0-1 pitch from Raul Valdes off the fa├žade of the second deck in left field at Citi Field. Once he jogged around the bases and entered the dugout, he did not return.

"After that last at-bat, he said, 'That's it, I'm hurting,' " Manager Jim Riggleman said. "He crushed that ball. But after rounding the bases, he said, 'I'm done.' "

Morse has felt minor soreness in his left hamstring for a few days. "Today," he said, "I felt it real bad." In the second inning Saturday, he walked before Wilson Ramos scalded a double to left.

As Morse sprinted around the bases, "I kind of felt a little pull on my left leg," he said. "I tried to play through it. I wish I could have kept playing. I know that out in the outfield, I'd probably be a defensive liability."

Morse hopes he'll play Sunday, but Riggleman assumed he would not. If Morse's season is over, he finishes hitting .291/.353/.521. Morse's power-hitting breakout may have been the most pleasant surprise of this season.

"I learned a lot about myself," he said. "I learned I could do some things with the bat. Rick Eckstein showed my that I can play, and play at a high level. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm not going to try to change a thing."

By Adam Kilgore  | October 2, 2010; 6:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

Tight hamstring is the new groin pull.

Posted by: nunof1 | October 2, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Michael Morse is one of the few positive things to happen to the Nats this year. Glad Riggs finally saw the light and made him an everyday player, and he deserves a crack at a starting job in 2011 for sure... I just hope it isn't the 1st base job he is getting the crack at...

Posted by: Ghost7 | October 2, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Tight hamstring is the new groin pull.

Posted by: nunof1 | October 2, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I've mostly been in Riggs corner not because I think he's a good manager but because I think it didn't matter who was in command, the talent isn't here. If he had pinch hit for Morse with Harris and Morse wasn't hurt I would have been ballistic.

It begs the question though; how accountable are the manager and coaches that we still can't bunt and strike out so much? Are the players so bad or is Eckstein out of his league when we have so many basic mistakes at the plate night after night?

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 2, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

OK...so no Morse tomorrow....

Can a team get NEGATIVE runs?

Posted by: TimDz | October 2, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

@SCNatsFan,

Riggleman is constantly double-switching Morse for Harris. Constantly? He didn't tonight because of the hamstring pull.
He double-switches out the guy with the highest OPS the last month and a half ... and really one of the top guys all season long
even when he was a pinch hitter.

Its inexplicable. Its Riggleman. He is a terrible manager, simply terrible and should be replaced for this club to be competitive.

Posted by: periculum | October 2, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, according to Byron Kerr Morse is going to be working out with Pudge and his personal trainer in the offseason attempting to emulate the injury free Pudge aura.

Be interesting to see what he looks like in the spring. He is already extremely strong as that one-handed home run 10 rows up in center demonstrated.

Posted by: periculum | October 2, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Morse can play first base. He makes contact and doesn't strike out 200 times a season.

Posted by: MKadyman | October 2, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Morse's full year numbers are great. Basically double his homers and RBIs. 30 HRs and 82 RBIs is basically in line with Ryan Zimmerman's production.

Would love to see Morse full-time in RF in the same lineup as Willingham, Zim and Dunn.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | October 2, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I remember watching batting practice on Opening Day.Morse hit the ball farther than anyone,including Zimmerman and Dunn.As for the double switches,I remember Riggleman making such a move after Morse had hit two home runs.I didn't get it then,and I still don't.This guy makes contact more than Dunn and often has impressive at-bats.

Posted by: seanmg | October 3, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Get it? Its easy. Riggleman practices a form of baseball cronyism. He himself said he is more interested in respecting (his favored) veterans and the game than winning, than performing.

That is the bottom line. Its why he really should be replaced. Immediately.

Posted by: periculum | October 3, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

The Nats are going out meekly into the night.
Last year they went on a seven win tear.

It seems the key to this lineup is Zimmerman.
Morse is becoming quite the story--I have really enjoyed watching him hit this year. Assuming Dunn leaves, Morse will do fine at first base. That will free up right field for a free agent (or Bernadina).

Posted by: driley | October 3, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

SCNatsFan -- you think Wiggleman is a good manager?

You must be a real diehard fan then with blinders on...because the rest of the baseball world can tell you he's awful and he has the record to prove it over his non-illustrious career. His winning percentage is one of the worst of all-time, but if that makes him a good manager to you, then good luck to you.

Posted by: jwing14 | October 3, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Of course Riggleman is not much of a manager. However, he is affordable. Don't we all get that? Affordable trumps everything else with the Nats.

So we go into the off-season with the goals of keeping the same manager, keeping the same outfield, dropping down a few notches at 1B in offense with an older guy there, and most likely maintaining the same low payroll or even lower. That ace pitcher Rizzo is seeking better be an all-star to overcome all the other deficiencies, so that fans can still hope and cheer for a 70-win season in 2011.

Posted by: EdDC | October 3, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

jwing, I don't think he's a good manager but I don't think with Commie Mack at the helm this is a .500 team. Blaming him is like blaming the mayor of a town that is hit by a hurricane.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 3, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

In somewhat related news, our Nats currently sit one game behind Cleveland. Of course, they're managed by that guy who couldn't hold a candle to Riggleman down the stretch in 2009. What was that guy's name again? And now, of course, Riggleman's evidently the one who has to go. Turns out he may not be a genius after all. hmmm... could it be that the manager isn't the problem, after all? Nah, that's crazy talk. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 3, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

As the Nationals limp into the close of another season, the Arizona Fall League will offer a chance to get an extended look at six prospects from the farm system. Nobody as exciting as Strasburg this year, but some players who could improve their outlook for 2011.

Derek Norris (CA, 21)- 2010 at Potomac, needs additional work on OBP & defense.
Steve Lombardozzi (2B, 22)- 2010 split between POT & Harrisburg, just needs more polish.
Michael Burgess (OF, 22)- Another POT/HAR split season, needs to work on plate dicipline.
Sammy Solis (LHSP, 22)- 2010 draftee, getting in additional work after signing late.
Cole Kimball (RHRP, 25)- Split time between POT & HAR, getting an extended look.
Adam Carr (RHRP, 26)- Split season between HAR & Syracuse, also getting an extended look.

Posted by: BinM | October 3, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

By the way, there will be a new Nats manager in 2011, when there will no longer be a massive $100,000 buy-out on Riggleman for the Nats to sweat over.

Posted by: EdDC | October 3, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Whoops, I meant 2012.

Posted by: EdDC | October 3, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

So this year I go into the off season w/ expectations. Namely, that in '11 our starting lineup is; 1b Dunn, 2b Espinosa, 3b Zimm, SS Desmond, LF Willingham, CF Morgan or Bernie or a FA, RF Morse, C Ramos w/ Pudge spelling him.

There is the potential of a really good lineup AND defense there if someone will just write down those names 4 out of 5 days and see what happens. Problem is I don't think any such person will have the pen in his hand to write that line up every day.

Posted by: Avar | October 3, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

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