VIERA, Fla. — When Nationals manager Davey Johnson showed up to Space Coast Stadium Tuesday morning all the doors were locked. The first night game of the season at home Tuesday night had kept things quiet a little later into the morning but once Johnson did get in, the first man inside the doors behind him was Bryce Harper.
“He said he was here at 7:15 (but it was locked) so he decided to go eat,” Johnson said.
The two talked about Harper’s tight left calf, which has held him out of the last six games (including Tuesday night’s) and Johnson told the outfielder that if he could go through another full workout Tuesday afternoon without issue, he’d put him in the lineup for Wednesday’s road game in Orlando against the Braves.
“I figured he was anxious to get back in the lineup,” Johnson said. “Seeing how eager he was, I told him if he ran around and had no problem he’d be in the lineup. That’s the whole story.”
His name was on the lineup for Wednesday’s game when it was posted around 1 p.m., batting seventh and playing right field, and he appeared to go through his workout without incident.
– Nationals outfielder Michael Morse threw from 90 feet on Monday, the first time he’d tested his strained right lat with throwing. From 90 feet was OK, Johnson said, but once he tried to go back further he felt some discomfort.
More was in the Nationals’ lineup for the second straight day Tuesday, again as the team’s DH.
“He got treatment again today and he’ll get stretched out,” Johnson said. “I’m not that worried about it.”
Morse played just 55 games in left field for the Nationals in 2011, despite opening the season in that position. He got the majority of his playing time as the first baseman after Adam LaRoche went down with a torn labrum. Before last season, Morse had never made an error in the outfield and he only made one last season but getting time out there to read balls could be important for him as the season nears.
Johnson, though, said he’s not concerned about Morse’s abilities out there even as he continues to be hindered with the strain.
“He conditioned himself well over the winter and he’s been running very hard knowing he’s going to have to be doing a little more running than he would at first base,” Johnson said. “I’m not worried about his throwing. He’s got a good arm and I’m sure he’ll come around.
“The only thing I’m concerned about is if he gets enough at-bats.”
There was some thought to sending Morse to the minor league side to get a slew of at-bats that way but the minor leaguers will finish their inter-squad scheduled on Wednesday so that option appears unlikely. Morse is in the lineup at cleanup as the DH for Wednesday’s game in Orlando.
– Rick Ankiel’s left hamstring is still a little tight but Johnson said he hopes to get the outfielder back in a game by Thursday or Friday when the Nationals play the Yankees.
“I think if it was regular season he’d play but there’s really no need,” Johnson said. “He feels good running around the outfield and he feels good at the plate. He looks good. He probably needs a couple more days.”