- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2012

It took almost three months, but Washington outfielder Michael Morse said he feels totally back to normal — so much so that he was put in the Nationals’ lineup for the first time this season.

Friday’s game against Atlanta was postponed due to storms in the area, and though no official makeup date has been announced, manager Davey Johnson said it might be made up in August. Johnson added that he will start Friday’s scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, and Gio Gonzalez will take the mound Sunday.

The inclement weather means Morse, who has been on the disabled list with a torn right lat muscle, will have to wait one more day to make his debut. Washington optioned outfielder Corey Brown to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for its now healthy slugger.

During his seven-year professional career, Morse has spent a lot of time nursing injuries. But grinning ear-to-ear before batting practice Friday, Morse said he has no qualms about coming back or reinjuring his muscle.

“I wouldn’t be here if I was [worried],” Morse said. “I feel like I’m 100 percent mentally and physically. If I wasn’t, I would say, ‘You know, maybe I should rehab a couple more games.’ But I feel good.”

Morse had the best season of his career in 2011 with the Nationals, hitting 31 home runs and racking up 95 RBI. Washington manager Davey Johnson had been itching to get Morse back in the lineup, and he said Morse’s return will help the team in countless ways.

“Our lineup is totally different than it was a year ago. We’re predominantly a left-handed hitting lineup,” Johnson said. “We really haven’t had that right-handed presence in the lineup, so he’ll bring relief to a lot of different areas with that.”

Morse played extended spring training games in Viera, Fla., last week before starting a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac in Woodbrige, Va., on Tuesday. In three games, he went 3-for-9 with an RBI.

It’s been a while since Morse has suited up in the big leagues, and he’s returning to a Washington team that looks a little different from what it did when he left.

Johnson, though, is confident the Nationals will reap the benefits from Morse’s return the second he steps on the field.

“He was our best hitter last year, and you’ve got to give him some respect,” Johnson said. “He’s a big, strong guy, knows the strike zone…And he’ll maybe take a little pressure off of everybody else in the lineup.”