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Morse removed in 4th inning of Nats game

Morse removed in 4th inning of Nats game

Michael Morse was removed from today's Nationals victory in the middle of the fourth inning, a surprise mid-game benching the club said was due to right thumb soreness even though manager Davey Johnson later cited an issue with Morse's hand and Morse himself insisted nothing was physically wrong.

"My hand feels fine," Morse said. "My hand feels good."

Morse has dealt with two separate nagging injuries over the last month. His thumb acted up in mid-August while the Nationals were playing in San Francisco, the result of being jammed on several inside pitches. Then on Aug. 24 in Philadelphia, he was struck by a pitch on the outside of his right hand, knocking him out of the entire series.

Morse hadn't noted any problems with either area since and appeared to be fine through the first 3 12 innings of today's game against the Cubs. But when the top of the fourth ended with Morse mimicking a catch in left field as teammate Bryce Harper actually snagged the flyball a few feet away, Morse and Johnson were seen having an animated discussion as soon as he returned to the dugout.

Roger Bernadina then came up to bat for Morse to lead off the bottom of the fourth and took his spot in left field the following inning.

Several innings later, the Nationals announced Morse departed the game with "right thumb soreness."

"Morse was complaining about his thumbhand, where he got hit, was acting up," Johnson said after the game. "I knew their pitcher was going to pound him in, and I didn't want to aggravate it worse. He didn't want to come out. I just said: 'You're coming out.' I don't need you aggravating it."

Morse later insisted the thumb and hand injuries were not connected in any way and insisted neither was bothering him enough to warrant removal from today's game.

Asked if Johnson took him out for precautionary reasons, the outfielder said: "I don't know. I have no clue. Whatever he says."

Johnson did say he expects to have Morse back in his lineup for tomorrow night's game.

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT