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The Morse Effect


The Morse Effect

Michael Morse could make his season debut for the Nationals tonight.

That decision hasn't officially been made yet, and it's possible the club will want the slugger to play at least one more game on his rehab assignment, get a few more at-bats and make a few more throws from the outfield before activating him off the disabled list.

But there's certainly a chance we'll see Morse in the lineup tonight against the Braves, or at worst within the next few days. And once he does rejoin the Nationals after missing nearly three months with a torn right lat muscle, his effect on the team should be profound.

Start, of course, with Morse's bat, which will be a welcome addition to a Nationals lineup that currently ranks 12th in the NL in batting average (.244) and on-base percentage (.313), ninth in slugging percentage (.394) and 13th in runs scored (192).

Now, it's probably too much to ask for Morse to step right in and immediately pick up where he left off at the end of his breakthrough 2011, when he led the club with a .303 average, 31 homers and 95 RBI. It may take a little while for him to get comfortable facing big-league pitching again.

There's also the possibility Morse won't be the same hitter he was a year ago, that his breakthrough season was an anomaly, not a precursor to more of the same. (Though there's plenty of reason to believe it was not a fluke.)

More than anything else, Morse's return should have a positive effect on the rest of the Nationals' lineup. What at times this year has been a less-than-imposing starting nine all of a sudden looks a lot more potent.

Where will Morse hit? For now, look for manager Davey Johnson to slot him in the fifth spot, behind the Bryce Harper-Ryan Zimmerman-Adam LaRoche trio that has worked well to date. Opposing pitchers might be less inclined to pitch around LaRoche now, and Morse certainly should find himself with plenty of RBI opportunities there.

Where will he play in the field? Look for him to start out in right field, a position he didn't play last season but did man some in 2010. This wasn't the Nationals' original plan, but with Jayson Werth injured and Steve Lombardozzi establishing himself as a viable leadoff hitter and left fielder, it probably makes the most sense for now.

That will leave the Nationals with a potent offensive outfield of Lombardozzi, Harper and Morse ... and though defense could be a bit shaky, Johnson will have Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina available off the bench should his team hold a lead late.

Will Morse's return cure everything that ails the Nationals? No. They're still dealing with plenty of other injuries and have plenty of other question marks.

But after surviving the season's first two months with nothing but negative news on the injury front, it's nice to know they're finally getting a key player back instead of losing one.

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.