MIAMI — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson sat at his desk Wednesday afternoon with a smile as wide as the Gulf of Mexico. For the first time in a long time, it seemed, Johnson had good news to pass on about something that involved the disabled list.
Michael Morse is on the verge of getting off of it.
“We have another body that’s close to being healthy,” Johnson said. “Rather than the other way around.”
Morse, rehabbing a torn right lat muscle, served as the designated hitter for five innings in Potomac’s rain-shortened contest Tuesday night and will DH again in the resumption of that game as well as tonight’s game shortly thereafter. He is scheduled to play the field on Thursday for Potomac. After that? Maybe Washington.
“He threw to bases, he’s working out with weights, doing everything he normally does and he’s fine,” Johnson said. “His timing (at the plate) is a bit off, but other than that he feels fit and ready to go. His timetable will probably be sped up. He could be back in D.C. soon.”
Asked if that meant activating him before Friday night’s game at home against the Atlanta Braves, Johnson said there was “an outside possibility.”
If he’s active, Johnson said he won’t hesitate to slot him back into a starting role immediately.
“I’d throw him right out there,” Johnson said. “If he’s able to go, I’ll throw him in right away. He might connect and hit one hard. It’d be a welcome addition.”
When Morse does return, don’t be surprised to see Johnson use him in right field instead of left.
While Morse played left field predominantly in 2011 (when he was in the outfield), the way the Nationals’ lineup is currently constructed, the strongest version is one in which Steve Lombardozzi is leading off. Johnson also feels that second baseman Danny Espinosa is showing signs of improvement at the plate so keeping Lombardozzi in left field allows them both to be in the lineup.
All that means that an outfield of Lombardozzi (LF), Bryce Harper (CF) and Michael Morse (RF) could become an extremely familiar one, giving the Nationals a strengthened offense and shifting Rick Ankiel to a bench/defensive replacement role.
– Nationals catcher Jesus Flores said his sore right hamstring had improved to the point where he felt well enough to offer himself up as a pinch hitter Wednesday night. Johnson told Flores he’d most likely not use him anyway, allowing him two more full days of rest.
Flores should be well enough to return to catching on Friday.
Johnson also mentioned that Carlos Maldonado has been dealing with a bit of a sore back so, on pure speculation, it wouldn’t be surprising if he is either put on the disabled list or sent back to Triple-A, instead of Jhonatan Solano, if and when Morse is ready to be activated or the Nationals simply feel they no longer need three catchers.