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Morse out until at least Tuesday

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Morse out until at least Tuesday

ATLANTA -- The Nationals will be without Michael Morse for their entire weekend series against the Braves, with manager Davey Johnson saying his left fielder likely won't be able to return from a left hand injury until Tuesday at the earliest.

Morse was initially hoping to take batting practice before tonight's series opener at Turner Field -- and potentially play -- but said he wasn't ready for that and hadn't really attempted to do anything with that hand since he removed himself from Tuesday's game in New York.

"I kind of thought it was being real optimistic that he'd be available today," Johnson said. "I think it's more likely next Tuesday. He's still bothered by it, and I didn't think it was going to heal in 48 hours."

Morse was diagnosed with a torn sheath and bone bruise, an injury he believes he initially sustained last month while compensating for a problem with his right thumb.

Because he played with it as long as he did, Morse is tempted to try to get back in the lineup as soon as possible. At the same time, he doesn't want to risk further injury that could affect his ability to play during the season's final weeks and beyond.

"Do I wait, trying to get it better? Or do I play?" he said. "It's kind of a balance."

Johnson said Morse would have to make it through an entire pregame workout before he'd consider a return, though he understands the injury may not heal 100 percent that quickly and the slugger may have to try playing through some pain.

"It also has to do with what you can tolerate," the manager said. "Obviously he's been trying to play through it, but he's dominant with the bottom hand, and that's the hand that the tear in the cuff is. So we'll have to wait and see."

Johnson doesn't feel an urgent need to rush Morse back, in part because of the options he has to replace him in left field. Roger Bernadina is starting tonight's series opener, though Tyler Moore could also get playing time before the weekend is up.

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Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

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Nationals set to bring back Matt Adams

The Nationals just checked another box.

They have reached an agreement to bring back first baseman Matt Adams, pending a physical, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

It’s unclear if the deal is for strictly one year or a year with an option. Either way, Adams will be part of the 2019 roster once he passes a physical.

Adams flourished last season with the Nationals when he delivered an .842 OPS as a part-time player. He was crucial since Ryan Zimmerman spent the middle of the season on the disabled list.

The Nationals later flipped Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals for “cash considerations”, which made him little more than a waiver claim for St. Louis. The Nationals just saved the remainder he was owed on his contract following the Aug. 21 transaction.

Adams, a quiet professional, fit well in the clubhouse. One on-field tear earned him a T-shirt homage to his nickname: “Big City doing Big City things” that several of his teammates wore pregame.

His role will be the same as last season: insurance for Zimmerman, as well as a power left-handed bat off the bench who will receive the occasional start if Zimmerman is healthy.

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Tanner Roark is out, who could be in?

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Tanner Roark is out, who could be in?

LAS VEGAS -- Let’s strip the name and take a blank taste test. Wednesday, the Nationals sent an average of 197 innings out the door. That’s 591 outs. It’s not something to shrug off.

Trading Tanner Roark for a reliever, a minor-league one at that, extracts a path to almost 600 outs. The Nationals need to find a new one. Choices to do so aren’t very enticing.

They are back in the starting pitching market because of Roark’s regression the last two seasons coupling with an increase in pay. He’s expected to earn around $10 million out of salary arbitration. The Nationals are gambling they can find equal effectiveness through another starter -- or two.

There’s money to allocate now. It’s not much for the remaining upper tier of free agents. It’s sufficient to bring in someone on a one- or two-year deal and perhaps apply to a more versatile bench piece than a straight backup at first base.

Washington made Patrick Corbin the highest-paid pitcher this offseason. He was priority one. In a vacuum, he may not be worth six years and $140 million. But not all players carry the same value with every franchise. The Nationals had a clear need for another potent starter, and preferably a left-handed one at that. They received the combination with Corbin.

The challenge for the Nationals is handling this market after Charlie Morton and Lance Lynn complicated it. Morton signed a two-year, $30 million deal with Tampa Bay. Lynn received a three-year, $30 million contract from the Texas Rangers. If the Nationals didn’t want to pay Roark $10 million, they surely don’t want to pay another pitcher something near what Morton and Lynn received, even if it allows more control. Roark was entering the last year of his contract.

Dallas Keuchel remains atop the available starters. By WAR, the next-best available pitcher is 34-year-old Anibal Sanchez. He put together what appears to be an outlier season in 2018 following three consecutive years of significant regression. Sanchez’s ERA-plus went 80, 73, 70 before spiking to 143 last season, the third-best mark of his 13-year career. Sanchez has also averaged just 138 innings pitched on average the last four years. That’s a lot of outs between the workload Roark handled and Sanchez has as he heads into his age-35 season.

Next on the list by WAR? Gio Gonzalez. Moving on.

After that? Not much inspiration. Left-hander Wade Miley pitched well in just 16 starts last season. He has a carer 4.26 ERA. Miley has not put together a strong full season since 2013.

Matt Harvey? Trevor Cahill? Clay Buchholz?

Brett Anderson? James Shields? Jason Hammel?

These are not exactly places to hang your hat.

However, the Nationals have little choice. Their solution to replace Roark’s outs will come from outside the organization. Depth at Triple-A Fresno is negligible. Options in Double-A to help the rotation now are non-existent.

They have one intriguing pitcher lurking: Henderson Alvarez. The Nationals signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

“Chance to make the team, if not, to pitch in Triple A for us,” Mike Rizzo said of his outlook on Alvarez.

Alvarez threw a no-hitter in 2013. He was an All-Star in 2014. Shoulder surgery was followed by shoulder discomfort, then another shoulder surgery. Alvarez didn’t pitch in 2016. He started three games for Philadelphia in 2017. He then pitched in the Mexican League in 2018, where he finished with 4.60 ERA in nine starts. The wildest of wild cards here.

Washington has also kept an eye on Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who is available through posting system.

Somewhere, they need to find another 180 innings.

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