Morgan on DL, Orr called up

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Nyjer Morgan was officially placed on the 15-day DL today, a formality we knew was coming after the center fielder broke his left hand sliding into third base yesterday. Morgan, who is being examined today in Baltimore by hand specialist Thomas Graham, is likely out for six weeks (ie.: the season). It’s a crushing blow to a Nationals club that was completely transformed by Morgan’s arrival about two months ago.

So what are the domino effects of the injury? Well, for one, Willie Harris will become the everyday center fielder (and probably leadoff man, though we’ll have to get confirmation of that from Jim Riggleman later this afternoon). It will be interesting to see if Riggleman gives any thought to playing Elijah Dukes in center field at all. I have a hunch the answer is no, because as we saw earlier this year, Dukes is not a legit center fielder. Better to leave him in right field and get comfortable over there.

The other effect of this injury is to Washington’s bench, which suddenly looks like the starting lineup at Class AAA Syracuse. The Nats have purchased the contract of infielder Pete Orr to take Morgan’s spot. (Also, Jordan Zimmermann was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, a procedural move to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Orr.) Orr was hitting .245 with nine homers, 50 RBI and 18 stolen bases at Syracuse, but he’s swung a hot bat this month (.297 with three homers and 17 RBI). Still, you don’t expect to get a whole lot of offense out of the 30-year-old veteran, which is troubling when you consider the full makeup of the Nats’ bench now…

— Backup catcher (either Wil Nieves or Josh Bard)

— Alberto Gonzalez

— Pete Orr

— Jorge Padilla

— Mike Morse

Yeah, not exactly an awe-inspiring group there. This, unfortunately, is the cumulative effect of injuries (Morgan, Jesus Flores, Austin Kearns) and trades (Nick Johnson, Anderson Hernandez). If you recall, the Nats opened the season with a bench of Nieves, Bard, Gonzalez, Dukes, Harris and Josh Willingham, with Ronnie Belliard soon to join once Hernandez returned from a minor injury.

Then again, that group opened the season 0-7, while this group just took two of three at Wrigley Field. So who knows what to expect moving forward?

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Mark Zuckerman

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