Flourishing Morse has grip on left for Nats
With fifth spring home run, outfielder making bold statement
VIERA, Fla. -- Both manager Jim Riggleman and general manager Mike Rizzo have indicated that Mike Morse will most likely be the Opening Day left fielder for the Nationals.
Morse, who was competing against Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina for the job, has the numbers to warrant the nod. In his first at-bat of Saturday's exhibition against the Yankees, Morse hit his Grapefruit League-leading fifth spring homer, raising his RBI total to nine and his average to .500 (13-for-26).
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"Mike is making a statement that he's the guy, so we welcome that," Riggleman said. "I'm reacting to what I see. He has played so well that if he goes 0-for-10, he is still in there. We are not going to get crazy about Spring Training performances, but he did this last year. He is doing the job this spring.
"I would like to see him just stay healthy, keep learning these pitchers and get as much at-bats as he can against the Braves', Mets' and Marlins' pitching staffs. Just get more information about those right-handers. We are not looking to platoon people."
Said Rizzo: "[Morse] has an opportunity and has taken the bull by the horns. If Opening Day was tomorrow, he would certainly be our Opening Day left fielder."
Before Rizzo and Riggleman's announcement, the right-handed-hitting Morse said he deserved to play every day and is capable putting up better numbers than he did last year, when he platooned with Bernadina and Willie Harris in right field, batting .289 with 15 home runs, 12 doubles and 41 RBIs in 266 at-bats.
"It's no secret I want to play every day," Morse said. "I feel like I deserve to play. I'm just going about my business the same way I would do during the season. I want to show the team how I play."
Morse has been showing Washington how he plays since Rizzo traded Ryan Langerhans to the Mariners for Morse's services in June 2009. Upon spending a few weeks at Triple-A Syracuse after the trade, Morse was promoted to the big leagues and became a valuable pinch-hitter, going 6-for-19 (.353) with a homer and eight RBIs.
Playing in a career-high 98 games, Morse enjoyed his best season as a big leaguer in 2010. Now, he wants to be an All-Star like former teammate Adam Jones, who has become a respected player with the Orioles.
"I guess you could say that I'm a late bloomer, but I guess it is better to bloom sometime than never," Morse said. "Right now, I'm honing in my game. I'm just telling myself, 'Why not try to be a great player, try to make an All-Star team? Why not?' I've played with a lot of guys in this game and seen them become All-Stars. Why can't I?
"Adam Jones and I were neck and neck in the Minor Leagues, and I'm thinking in my head, 'Why can't I be an All-Star?' I don't want to sit back and watch other people. I've done that long enough. Now, it's my time."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.