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Posted at 4:02 PM ET, 02/14/2011

With a fresh outlook, Nyjer Morgan feels ready for 2011

By Adam Kilgore

Nyjer Morgan knows now why his 2010 season, as he said, "wasn't a Nyjer Morgan year." His preparation last winter was hindered by his injured wrist, which he said, looking back, had not fully healed by the time he reported to Viera. He also focused too much on things outside of baseball, and the distraction, he said, cost him.

"I didn't come into it right last year," Morgan said today. "I was just thinking about stuff - contract, changing agents. It was too much [stuff], man."

This winter, Morgan used the experience as a lesson. He simplified his outlook, he said, and focused only what's important. The result was a productive offseason and, Morgan hopes, the groundwork for a rebound 2011 season.

"I came into it right, real fresh," Morgan said. "I was able to basically focus on myself, not anybody else. That's why I feel like I'm ready. I'm not worried about anybody else. I'm not worried about trying to do this, trying to do that. I got to worry about what Nyjer Morgan is able to do.

"I was just immature last year. I just had to go through some stuff. Some people don't get a chance to go through what I went through last year. Basically, I just take it as a learning lesson. I feel like I'm a lot better of a person than I was last year at this time. I'm ready to go. I'm happy about my offseason, what I did, how I came in prepared. I've got to let my game speak for itself now."

At the end of the season, Morgan took two weeks off before beginning his offseason regimen. "I've been getting after it ever since," Morgan said. He woke up daily at 6 a.m., lifted weights at a gym for an hour and ran sprints at a local high school. Morgan appears to have put on some muscle, but he's not sure about that. "I still feel the same - skinny," he said. "Just in shape."

After his disappointing 2010 season - during which he hit .252 with a .319 on-base percentage while being caught stealing a league-leading 17 times - Morgan faces an important spring. The Nationals want him to be their leadoff hitter and center fielder. The jobs are his to lose, but he must prove himself to seize them for good. Morgan, sticking with his streamlined mental approach, said he's not thinking about his playing status or trying to prove anything.

"I expect just to go out there and play my game," Morgan said. "There's really nothing else. Basically, I know what I have to do. Is it supposed to be added on pressure? Supposedly, it is. But in my eyes, no. I've been playing this game basically my whole life. I'm a little wiser, a lot more experienced now. I'm just going to play my game. I'm not going to go out there and say stuff that I shouldn't."

Morgan, who got to Viera two weeks ago, does want to adjust one part of his game. He realizes he sometimes became too reckless on the base paths last, too eager to create havoc. Morgan, who finished tied for third in the National League with 34 stolen bases last year, wants to remain aggressive, but while being more selective.

"I can't really try to press it," Morgan said. "If I don't see a bag and I can't steal a bag, I'm not going to take it. I learned that. I'm not going to try to create at will, like I normally try. Just simplify. I'm not going to try to do too much. I was basically trying to do too much last year. "

Morgan's 2010 also included a brush with controversy. He served an eight-game suspension for an incident when he brushed a St. Louis Cardinals catcher and his role in a brawl with the Marlins. He still says, "I didn't do anything wrong," but he wants to put the incidents - like the rest of his season - behind him.

"I had my hearing," Morgan said. "I had to serve my time. I'm ready to move on. That's over with. That's the past. I'm looking forward to a big year for myself."

By Adam Kilgore  | February 14, 2011; 4:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

"I can't really try to press it," Morgan said. "If I don't see a bag and I can't steal a bag, I'm not going to take it."

Show me.

Posted by: joemktg1 | February 14, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

We're rooting for you Nyjer!

Posted by: dand187 | February 14, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The first step is recognizing the problem. It sounds like he does recognize the base stealing percentage is a problem and the performance in general was a problem. (He may still not be recognizing that bowling over the catcher when there is no play and charging the mound when the ball was 10 feet behind him was a problem)

Anyway, its good to hear he realizes things need to change. That alone is something we never heard from the likes of Milledge, Dukes, Lopez, etc.... And, it is an important difference.

Posted by: whatsaNATaU | February 14, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Talk is cheap and what Morgan does the best....show me you have changed....I highly doubt it.

Posted by: JayBeee | February 14, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Hope he does it, really rooting for the guy. I never bailed on him last year, because I know that the skill-set is there, but now its make or break time. A productive Nyjer Morgan changes everything.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | February 14, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Good base stealers study hours and hours of film. They study pitchers and catchers moves and tendencies. Nyjer just doesn't seem like the kind of player with the patience to put in those needed hours of tedious study. But as they say the proof is in the pudding. We'll find out soon enough. Sure hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 14, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I am obliged to agree with Jayb--talk *is* cheap. The world will litte note, nor long remember, what we say here.

I think Bob Dylan said that.

Posted by: Section3mysofa | February 14, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Well he can't show you he's changed before ST starts.
He showed up in Viera almost three weeks early. That says something.
He said all the right things. Give him that much (which ain't much).
Let's hope for the best.

The Nyjer Morgan of July 2009 would be more valauble to this team than a front line starter.


Posted by: Sunderland | February 14, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

I don't doubt that Morgan will regain his form in the outfield but I still have my doubts that he will be able to duplicate the plate performances he had here after the trade from Pittsburgh.

He simply over-reached what he had been able to do before in his career, and while his defense is enough to make a major league club I think his ultimate role is as a #4 outfielder or platoon candidate.

I don't see him as centerfielder for this team for a full-season.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 14, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

With Bryce Harper ready to begin knocking the doors down, pretty sure Mr. Morgan's days here are numbered. Harper has already stated he feels he's a better CF than RF. So Werth/Harper/?........

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 14, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Ok so Nyjer is ready for 2011, what about Tony Plush?

Posted by: markfd | February 14, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Good base stealers study hours and hours of film. They study pitchers and catchers moves and tendencies. Nyjer just doesn't seem like the kind of player...

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 14, 2011 4:47 PM
==========================================
Don't know about that. Nyjer was on "Wired Wednesday" one night season before last, and after Elijah Dukes got picked off during that game (remember he was the club leader in that category until he was cut loose...), the mike picked up Nyjer talking with him as they walked out to their outfield positions. Nyjer was telling him how to watch the pitcher and the catcher, what to pick out that would tip you off they were going to first instead of the plate.

Of course, if he were a real student of base stealing, he wouldn't have gotten CS himself so often last year...

Posted by: gilbertbp | February 14, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I'd feel a whole lot better about this interview if it had taken place at another team's spring training site. I.e., if Nyjer were ready to display his "skill set" and new-found maturity with some other team, having been traded in the off-season. But, darn it, the Red Sox inexplicably went after Carl Crawford.

Old "Double Switch" loves him and, so far as we can tell, Rizzo still ranks Nyjer as the best CF in the game. So we're all set in CF.

Posted by: JohnRDC | February 14, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad that Nyjer has a fresh outlook. I still think the Shark is more of a five tool player and I think he should be the center fielder for the Nats. Although, having Bernadina in left would work as well. Nyjer is one fast fellow.

Posted by: terrycalcium | February 14, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Questions I wish a reporter would ask Nyjer: How much of your game is physical, and how much is mental? Note: percentages should add up to 100.

What have you done to improve your
in-game concentration in the outfield? Your situational awareness on the basepaths? What are you doing to ensure you will throw to the right base? hit the
cutoff man? Have your read the Willie Mays biography? Have you studied how Mays played the game? Name the best center fielders in baseball history -- What have you learned from studying them on film or reading about them? From talking to them?

Posted by: nitcat | February 14, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Ah, "Pitchers and Catchers"!
I don't know whether to be worried or excited that there's no "Tony Plush" and only 1 reference from Nyjer to himself in the third person...

Part of maturity is taking accountability for your actions. No other team would have put up with his antics from last year, much less brought him back with the starting and catalyst job his to lose.

Last year was inexcusable, Nyjer. In general I don't like to hear a guy saying it's only about himself, but in this case, I believe that's HALF the battle. Understanding the situation/team is going to be the 50% that I hope he's able to tackle -- because he's got himself ready to go...

--------
Questions I wish a reporter would ask Nyjer: How much of your game is physical, and how much is mental? Note: percentages should add up to 100.

What have you done to improve your
in-game concentration in the outfield? Your situational awareness on the basepaths? What are you doing to ensure you will throw to the right base? hit the
cutoff man? Have your read the Willie Mays biography? Have you studied how Mays played the game? Name the best center fielders in baseball history -- What have you learned from studying them on film or reading about them? From talking

Posted by: mo_dc | February 14, 2011 6:48 PM | Report abuse

@section3, 4:48--- Actually, Abe Lincoln said that, at Gettysburg. Apt quote though.

Posted by: Slidell | February 14, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

"Ok so Nyjer is ready for 2011, what about Tony Plush?"

Seems you missed the point of what Nyjer said. Tony Plush and all that jazz is gone this year. Who knows where? We don't care. It's a good thing that Nyjer Morgan is only worrying about Nyjer Morgan now and not all those other things. That's the way it was back in late 2009, when he was an asset, not a liability. If he did it then, he can do it now. And he knows that if he doesn't do it now, he'll be gone. Again, a good thing.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 14, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who repeatedly refers to himself in the third person has an ego that will keep getting in the way.

Posted by: Meridian1 | February 14, 2011 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I think it is a good idea to take a look at Harper as a centerfielder, but we are still talking about an 18 year old kid who hasn't even filled out. So I'm not sure his future body is going to say centerfield. (It could have easily said catcher, but that is another debate.) At any rate, other than Morgan, it's hard to really identify another lead off man on the roster. So the guy still has a future if he can figure out how to more consistently get on base and, obviously, steal bases.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 14, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I like the fact that he was up early lifting and running sprints. Perhaps his focus is where its supposed to be, we'll see shortly. When the pressure is one we will find out where his head is at. I'm rooting for him to succeed.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 14, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

NM is scared.
He knows NOW is the time.
I wish him well.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | February 14, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Boz keeps saying Nyjer will sit against left handers which should be interesting. If so and he is not the good soldier as was Guzman last year he probbly won't last long. And any repeat of the histrionics won't be tolerated. Maybe he fell victim of trying to be The Man instead of a solid leadoff hitter and CF. At any rate, I hope the silver Elvis wig is ready for action.

Posted by: Natmeister | February 14, 2011 8:35 PM | Report abuse

I hope I'm wrong but I don't see him on the roster for the entire season

Posted by: SCNatsFan | February 14, 2011 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who repeatedly refers to himself in the third person has an ego that will keep getting in the way.
Posted by: Meridian1 | February 14, 2011 7:09 PM

Eh, that's a bit of an earnest assessment. I don't think Nyjer is being that serious when he talks like that.

I also think that he's going to be given a long leash because we don't have anyone else to lead off. Nyjer's not here to play CF (he didn't even do that in Pitts), he's here to lead off. And I don't think he'll sit against most lefties because, again, we have no one else to lead off. He just needs to get back to his career OBP, which is around .345. 360+ would be nicer.

Posted by: Kev29 | February 14, 2011 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Well, it is a good start, at least. Acknowledging his immaturity and the off the field issues. I wish he would have also acknowledged that he made some mistakes against Florida and St Louis too, but I do think that it is a good sign. Makes sense to me that a contract concern could have gotten in his head, especially when he got off to such a bad start and then tried to get it all back at once. It doesn't mean that he will actually turn things around, but I think it is encouraging.

I was pretty disappointed in him last year too, and I am not sure how confident I am that he will be a productive player again, but I am willing to keep an open mind on him. If he could return to the player he was in 2009 - not just with us, but the whole year - that would make a huge difference for us.

Posted by: Willy2 | February 14, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

I like the fact that at least he comes to spring training and admits that he needs to improve on last season but what i don't get is negative comments from a lot of you so called fans i mean damn can you give the guy a freakin chance? I can see why Poopy loves to post on this blog a lot of you are bashing Nyjer before the season starts how about some support for the guy.

Posted by: dargregmag | February 14, 2011 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm rooting for the guy.

I was even rooting for him last year - he was on the edge yes - but he was clearly going through 'stuff' that was obvious.

Hopefully all of whatever it was that was in his mind is gone and he's back to the guy that made all the difference at the end of 2009.

He's exciting to watch when he's on it. When I'm at games I usually say to whomever I'm with - watch that guy.. he's the fastest guy on the field.

Posted by: capitolhill09 | February 14, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

"I didn't do anything wrong,"

Nyjer you seemed like you matured until I read that!

Posted by: break20 | February 14, 2011 11:54 PM | Report abuse

With Bryce Harper ready to begin knocking the doors down, pretty sure Mr. Morgan's days here are numbered. Harper has already stated he feels he's a better CF than RF. So Werth/Harper/?........

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 14, 2011 5:42 PM

Isn't left field and/or platton an option?

Posted by: break20 | February 15, 2011 12:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm with dargregmag all the way. For goodness sake, give the guy a chance to show that he can at least come close to 2009. His career stats are a lot better than last year. If he can't fill the lead-off role, the Nats really don't have another good option.

And, hey, I'm sure sec3 knew who he was quoting. It's got to be the most inaccurate thing Abe ever said (in 20-20 hindsight), in the course of one of the greatest speeches ever.

Posted by: nats24 | February 15, 2011 12:28 AM | Report abuse

What does his arm still being injured have to do with him being caught stealing with two outs and the pitcher at-bat???

He should have been sent packing that day, if not before!

Posted by: p_chuck | February 15, 2011 12:47 AM | Report abuse

I think it's going to be the same old lousy Morgan. I just wish he was gone.

Posted by: Pete433 | February 15, 2011 6:17 AM | Report abuse

I love spring training. Everybody's healthy, happy and ready to have a great year.

I think it's all that sunshine.

Posted by: baltova1 | February 15, 2011 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Moonball has the mental toughness of a turnip. He'll start pouting after his first slump. An old leopard like Moonie can't change his stripes...he is what he is.

Posted by: howjensen | February 15, 2011 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Last year, Morgan made $425K+ (according to USAToday). No, it's not the millions that most people think of when they think of ML baseball players, but it's certainly enough to keep Tony in plush for a while. For that amount of money, it should be a forgone conclusion that you work hard and stay focused.

Based on his performance last year, I would not think he'd be making much more than $425K again, so the incentives to do better and get a better paycheck next season should be motivation enough.

That and looking in the rear view mirror as he races toward the center field fence to see his competition.

Stay focused, Nyjer. We're counting on you.

GO NATS!

Posted by: luv2bikva | February 15, 2011 6:50 AM | Report abuse

I like Spring Training because everything is a new start and and we are filled with new hope for the future. Remember when we first got Nyjer -- I couldn't believe we were able to pick up someone who could have such an influence on the game along with a good pitcher in Burnett for the two bums we sent them. I think Nyer still has that capability if he stays focused and I like hearing what he said.

Posted by: LostHarp | February 15, 2011 7:08 AM | Report abuse

I get really annoyed by the know-nothings who revel in badmouthing Nyjer Morgan all the time. He had a bad year last year, but then didn't we all?

The guy plays with real fire. I wish we could spread around his desire to win to all the Nats. He gives 110% every play in every game. And he is a great asset in the clubhouse, always keeping the mood upbeat unless he's appropriately mad at himself for doing something stupid because he doesn't accept his own shortcomings.

He treats the other team as the enemy. A LOT of the greatest players did likewise (Ty Cobb and Bob Gibson spring immediately to mind). Personally, I think we need more of that attitude; as far as I can see, among the Nats only Lannan shares it right now.

I really like Nyjer Morgan. I hope he achieves more of his potential, and I have real confidence that he will.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | February 15, 2011 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I get really annoyed by the know-nothings who revel in badmouthing Nyjer Morgan all the time. He had a bad year last year, but then didn't we all?

The guy plays with real fire. I wish we could spread around his desire to win to all the Nats. He gives 110% every play in every game. And he is a great asset in the clubhouse, always keeping the mood upbeat unless he's appropriately mad at himself for doing something stupid because he doesn't accept his own shortcomings.

He treats the other team as the enemy. A LOT of the greatest players did likewise (Ty Cobb and Bob Gibson spring immediately to mind). Personally, I think we need more of that attitude; as far as I can see, among the Nats only Lannan shares it right now.

I really like Nyjer Morgan. I hope he achieves more of his potential, and I have real confidence that he will.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | February 15, 2011 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Hey all you Nowhere Morgan rooters - did you check his On-Base-Percentage? Yeah, he sucks!!! Plus he's a jerk.

Adding to the list of reasons the Nats will be in last.

Riggleman, I-Roid, Nowhere Morgan, Poor starting pitching and other than Werth, no outfielders.

Posted by: Dog-1 | February 15, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

A Note to Dog-1; Why don't you take that bullsh_t you're spouting over to Poopy's moms basement and see if you can room with him, and where did you come from? i ain't see you posting on this blog before you know nothing about this team or it's players.I don't want to hear nothing from you about Nyjer or anyone else on this team you front running know-nothing chump!

Posted by: dargregmag | February 15, 2011 9:05 AM | Report abuse

"I was just immature last year. I just had to go through some stuff."

You turned 30 last year. That makes your attitude and behavior problems due to being maladjusted, not to being immature.

On the bright side, at least he can't hit fewer home runs than he did last year!

Posted by: Fairfax6 | February 15, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Who is going to change his personality?

Have you ever run into this guy when the cameras aren't on him and he isn't channeling his "Tony Plush"?

Just not a nice guy but I can forget what a DBag he is if he can play smart and get at least a .340 OBP and at least a .750 steal percentage.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 15, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I just want Nyjer to play up to his potential, which is pretty high. What he does is play down to his self-image, which is pretty low. Last year, he was constantly trying to prove how much of a man he was. "Watch me steal 2nd with 2 outs and the pitcher batting!" or "Watch me run over this unsuspecting catcher!" Really, he reminds me a little of receiver Hines Ward, only without the game focus.

To hear a pro-athlete say he is "maturing" at age 30 (31 this year) is a bit of a joke. Only his potential has kept him from being swept under the rug.

Posted by: ehay2k | February 15, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Give the guy a chance for the love of God. The guy is hard-nosed former hockey player he will work to get better. I'm rooting for him to bring it all together this year and I think he will.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 15, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I echo the comments of those that think he can be a very valuable member of the team. If he can regain the form he had in 2009 this team will improve greatly. I understand why some are dubious but there are plenty of good players who have bad years for many reasons.

Posted by: ouvan59 | February 15, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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