When Washington left fielder Michael Morse strolled out of the Potomac Nationals' dugout Tuesday to take batting practice, the 6-foot-5 slugger looked out of place among his temporary teammates at Pfitzner Stadium.
Morse, who has been on the disabled list since spring training with a torn right lat muscle, played with the Single-A Nationals on Tuesday and Wednesday during a rehab assignment. If he's activated when Washington begins its homestand Friday against Atlanta, manager Davey Johnson said, then Morse will be in the lineup.
And even though Morse's stay was short, Potomac manager Brian Rupp is grateful for the opportunity his players had to compete with the big leaguer.
"It's somebody that's been there, and you get to pick their brain a little bit, talk to them about the things they went through in the minor leagues," Rupp said after Tuesday's game. "Obviously, our team is struggling a little bit overall, and he's somebody that they can ask about. I know he's had his struggles, so he's somebody that can help out these young guys."
Potomac (19-28) owns the second-worst record in the Carolina League, and in April it foundered through a six-game losing streak.
Success hasn't been an issue for Morse. Last season, Morse finished in the top 10 among National League batters in home runs (31), RBI (95) and slugging (.550).
"There's not one thing I did different," said Morse, who made his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2005. "The biggest thing is I got an opportunity to play. Last year was the first time I got an opportunity to play every day, and not only did I kick in the door, I knocked it over."
Morse doesn't lack confidence. But staying healthy enough to even get to the batter's box has been something with which Morse has struggled during his seven-year career in the major leagues.
Morse played in just 21 games in 2006 and had surgery that July to repair a torn meniscus. In April 2008, he hurt his left shoulder while diving for a ball and was out for the rest of the season.
He's made quite a home on the disabled list. But even during his current stint, Morse's words ring with positivity. It's a trait he's tried to hand down to the eager minor leaguers around him.
"I tell these guys every day ... they're going to have their ups and downs definitely down here," Morse said. "I try to tell them, look, 'We've all been through these. We've all been through the tough times.' This is a good experience, and this is where the guys here will learn who they are."
Knowing he's been in their shoes, some of the Potomac players sought advice from Morse upon his arrival in Woodbridge, Va.
And were they nervous to approach the major league veteran?
"No, man," Morse laughed. "The first thing they asked me is what spread am I buying."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.