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Posted at 6:35 PM ET, 03/ 8/2011

Nyjer Morgan's adventures on the basepaths

By Dave Sheinin

First of all, it was good for the Nationals to see Morgan on the basepaths in the first place. After carrying an .063 batting average (1 for 16) and .063 on-base percentage into Tuesday's game against the New York Mets, he reached base four times in the Nationals' 4-3, 10-inning win, on a pair of hits (one of them a bunt single) and a pair of walks.

And once he got out there, the fun began. In the first inning, he was caught trying to steal second -- on a perfect throw from Mets catcher Mike Nickeas. As soon as Morgan returned to the dugout, Manager Jim Riggleman called him over for a pep talk.

"I said, 'You know what? Iit seems like they throw the ball right on the button,'" Riggleman said. "He never gets a break... I just wanted him to stay positive and realize the catcher made a great throw. That's baseball. He was aggressive [and] the catcher made a great throw. When Nyjer's out there, they're on their 'A game' in terms of stopping him from running."

In the fifth, after drawing his second walk, Morgan stole second successfully (his first stolen base of the spring), then, with Ian Desmond on first, pulled off the front end of a double-steal.

Finally, in the ninth, after stroking a double and advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt, Morgan got the suicide squeeze sign with Alberto Gonzalez at the plate. But Gonzalez failed to get the bunt down, and Morgan was tagged out -- officially a caught stealing.

"It felt good, but it's just the start of the process," Morgan said. "It's still spring training. You're working on stuff. You can't get too high after one game. I felt good up there at the dish, and I guess I can go from there now. That's my game."

Here are a few other things that stood out from Tuesday's win:

*Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann continued the trend of strong starting pitching for the Nationals, throwing three scoreless innings and allowing only one hit and a pair of walks while striking out four. Though there were several other hard-hit balls against Zimmermann, it also seemed as if he was dealing with a tight strike zone of home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.

"My fastball command was a little better than my last time out, and the breaking pitches had a lot better feel today," Zimmermann said. "My arm feels good. That's the main thing right now. it's all about just building innings."

*Adam Carr got the win by putting up scoreless frames in the ninth and 10th. He had a solid 2010 season closing games at Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse, and could help the Nationals at some point this coming season.

*Non-roster outfielder Jeff Frazier continues to get playing time, and continues to produce. On Tuesday, he had a single and a walk, though he also committed an error in right field, one of two for the Nationals on the day. Although he has little chance of making the team, he is hitting .500 (5 for 10) with a 1.583 OPS this spring, and at the very least will be a nice piece of depth to stash at Class AAA Syracuse.

By Dave Sheinin  | March 8, 2011; 6:35 PM ET
 
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Comments

Zach Greinke hurt his ribs playing basketball, and will start the year on the DL. I am shamelessly, unabashedly, going to root against him this year, as well as against others who rejected the Nats. This is only sports, folks. Feel free to have heroes and villains.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 8, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I'll say this Nyjer will get it together, he's the only Nat with any reasonable chance of putting up numbers as far as steals are concerned other team's know this and are geared up for him. Stay positive Nyjer you're gonna turn it around.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 8, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if Riggleman etal remember Alberto's last attempt at a squeeze. Sounds like it was extremely similar to this one, although hopefully this time he didn't duck out of the way and leave his teammate hung out to dry. Classic lack of situational understanding. But of course, same result.

Posted by: LeeM9308 | March 8, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Lets see here...one game, two walks, two times thrown out, one steal. Isn't it time for the Koolaid drinkers to declare the new and improved Moonball experiment a success?

"Featuring" Moonball on the base paths is about as sane as driving intoxicated on a one way street without a seatbelt while tweeting Charlie Sheen. Accident ahead, people.

Posted by: howjensen | March 8, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

@howjensen:
Not wanting to sound like a Nyjer defender here, but his overall ST numbers are on a slow rise. A double, two walks, and he stole two bases with one CS today; The other went in the books as a caught stealing as well, but was a blown suicide squeeze from AGonz at the plate.

He's a two-tool player for the most part (Speed & Fielding). What he needs to start doing is putting together his limited (slap-)hitting skills, +fielding ability & +base-running speed together in games. When you only have two cylinders to work with, they'd better both be fireing.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

@howjensen: I'm no Morgan fan, but it's pretty ridiculous to get mad at him for getting tagged at home when Gonzalez missed a suicide squeeze bunt. They call it the "suicide" squeeze for a reason. And he had two steals, not one.

Morgan has the inside track on the CF job, but he still has just over three weeks to lose it. The Nationals will be better with him there - IF he can play to his career averages. It's clear from the things that the team is saying that Morgan must produce or someone else will take the job.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | March 8, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Quit makin excuses for him, Riggs! Wrong approach jack. They'll never go all out all at once for you. They might have some players go all out some of the time, but he ain't got the intellect to actually create a situation on his own. It's the manager's job to turn them into a team, you know, like Showalter, or whoever and not make excuses. Get real Riggs!

>"I said, 'You know what? Iit seems like they throw the ball right on the button,'" Riggleman said. "He never gets a break... I just wanted him to stay positive and realize the catcher made a great throw. That's baseball. He was aggressive [and] the catcher made a great throw. When Nyjer's out there, they're on their 'A game' in terms of stopping him from running."

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2011 8:26 PM | Report abuse

@Brue:
Would you rather have a manager who starts throwing players under the bus in the press during Spring Training, or someone who speaks in a positive manner while dressing down a player privately?

In short, Nyjer Morgan is the probable Nationals CF until the team decides he isn't, much like Dukes was the probable Nationals RF until the team decided he wasn't. At least the Nationals have some competent replacements in camp for the CF job, should Morgan fail.

Posted by: BinM | March 8, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

or someone who speaks in a positive manner while dressing down a player privately?

Posted by: BinM

Listen to me man - nobody gives a damn what Riggs 'thinks', all they care about is what he's gonna do. And right now, they're starting to make errors - and I don't know specifically why they're making them, all I know is that every team that guy is around commits a lot of errors. So I'm just playing the percentages with his softball approach and tell you that I'm pretty sure they won't respect him enough to play hard, because it looks like the attention lapses in the field just like last year. There's only one way to get Desmond to wake up, and that's to threaten to move him to 2B, or to the bench, because let's face it - Espinosa is the man with the golden glove. Period. Might hit .250 but who cares as long as he does it at SS. They should just go ahead and put Desi at 2B, now you have some power like Utley at that position. But I would think they have to move Espinsoa to SS.

Posted by: Brue | March 8, 2011 8:46 PM | Report abuse

So I'm just playing the percentages with his softball approach and tell you that I'm pretty sure they won't respect him enough to play hard, because it looks like the attention lapses in the field just like last year. Posted by: Brue

Brue's right. Bring back Frank Robinson. Even at 90 years old he'd be better.This guy is too nice and doesn't command respect.

Posted by: bosco3 | March 8, 2011 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Yep its already a tropic island mess on Giggleman's Isle ...

So, join us here every day my friends you're sure to get a smile ..
with 25 stranded castaways here on Giggleman's Isle!

Posted by: periculum | March 8, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Stras, Bryce, and Bobby V in 2012!!!

Posted by: sollazo | March 8, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

@kevincostello: re Greinke, just think, that could have been us, with him on the DL, after having given up several quality players in a roll of the dice. Can you imagine the howls if that trade had gone through? Not that I wish Greinke ill, but I sure don't wish him well.

As for Nyjer, let's give Riggleman the benefit of knowing what ST is all about and trying to field the best possible team for a 162-game season. After last year, I am no longer a Morgan fan, but now is exactly the time to take his measure. That's what coaching/managing is all about. Plus, it keeps Bernadina and Morse going all out. So what, exactly, is the downside at this point? Remember Milledge's short leash? There will be plenty o' time to complain down the road. If you can't experiment in ST, when can you?

Posted by: swhite21 | March 8, 2011 9:54 PM | Report abuse

From the post: "In the fifth, after drawing his second walk, Morgan stole second successfully..."

Could someone please explain to me how you would steal second UN-successfully?

Nine times out of ten, when you see the word "unsuccessfully" in a sentence, it's redundant.

[/peeve]

Posted by: gilbertbp | March 8, 2011 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Correction: Nine times out of ten, when you see the word "SUCCESSFULLY" in a sentence, it's redundant.

Too much wine last night.

Posted by: gilbertbp | March 9, 2011 6:56 AM | Report abuse

To all the Kool-Aid'rs out there answer this question.

If the Nats brought in Rickey Henderson to teach Base Running 101, and the made them watch hours upon hours of tape, breaking down Ty Cobb and his mastery of bunting; who would fair better Morgan or Bernie?

The answer would be Bernie.
The reason why it is not Nyjer is because he is the Garrett Mock of the fielders. He has million dollar legs and a ten cent head.

Oh, and answer me this also what happend to all that new found focus BS that he was spouting on and on about? If he does make it out of ST as the starting CF his at-bat song sould be "Been Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction.

Posted by: hansenjo | March 9, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Morese/Ankiel LF, Bernardina CF, Werth RF, Nyjer gone.

Posted by: crimsonmac | March 9, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Morse/Ankiel LF, Bernardina CF, Werth RF, Nyjer gone.

Posted by: crimsonmac | March 9, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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