PHOENIX -- Bryce Harper's day off on Thursday won't become a common occurrence, but Nationals manager Davey Johnson might have reason to give him a few more breathers the rest of the season.Harper, batting .176/.276/.265 since the All-Star break, sat out the series finale, with the Nats starting Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth in the outfield. Johnson has a surplus of outfielders with those three, Harper and Tyler Moore, who hit well this season before getting shifted into a more uncertain role when Washington kept him on the active roster upon Werth's return. Johnson said he would likely only sit Harper against a particularly tough left-handed starting pitcher, however. "Now that Jayson's able to play a little bit more, I may pick my spots and give [Harper] a breather -- not so much for him, but maybe to get a Tyler Moore in there, which I have now that Jayson Werth is back," Johnson said. "The only reason is because that's what I would do for all 25 guys on the roster, to keep them sharp." Bernadina has been particularly deserving of more playing time. Johnson said Friday that the outfielder made noticeable adjustments in Spring Training, shortening his stride and generally playing smarter, and it's paid off. Bernadina is batting .287/.373/.388 this season and .343/.429/.388 since the All-Star break. "He's playing real smart, and he's playing great defensively, offensively. He's done well. He's been outstanding," Johnson said. "I've had a lot of guys miss a lot of time, so as long as they're healthy, I'll still kind of plug him in like I would a fourth outfielder -- double switch with him, pinch hit with him. He's been doing a heck of a job."
Nats' Rizzo staying course on Strasburg plan
PHOENIX -- Following another report Friday about Stephen Strasburg's impending innings limit, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo reiterated at Chase Field that there is no specific number, and nothing has changed regarding the club's plan to shut down the young ace.Yahoo! Sports reported Friday that Rizzo said Strasburg will not pitch more than 180 innings this season. MLB.com has previously reported that the limit is expected to range from 160-180 innings. Strasburg entered Friday's start at Chase Field having thrown 127 1/3 innings, and if he maintains his current pace, he would barely surpass 180 innings by the end of the regular season. Rizzo will make the decision himself, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson said there hasn't been any increased communication or clarification about the limit as it draws nearer. "None that I know of, but I know were going to do similar to what we did with Jordan Zimmermann," Johnson said. "There are highly educated people making that decision, so I'm just working with whatever they do." Zimmermann is dealing with a lingering medical issue of his own, inflammation in his right shoulder that has given him trouble getting loose before his starts. He's pitched well despite the problem, but Johnson is holding him back a bit and closely monitoring his pitch count.
"It's still nagging," Johnson said. "Even though when you see him pitch, he looks fine, I don't want that inflammation to grow. I'm going to be on the short side of things. ... But I'll be concerned with the pitch count and the number of innings that he throws, a la Stras."Anytime I've heard that a player has a little injury of any kind, I try to not tax that. If it was a position player, I probably wouldn't have him stealing bases. If it's a starter, I'm going to limit the innings and number of pitches. Bullpen guy, more days of rest so that doesn't flare up."
Scoring change trims Morse's hit streak
PHOENIX -- Michael Morse didn't know he had an 18-game hitting streak after smacking two home runs Thursday night against the Astros. But he did know Friday when that streak went from the longest active mark in the Majors, and the longest of his career, back to seven games.A scoring change made Friday afternoon switched a single he recorded Aug. 2 to an error on Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. In the third inning of that game at Nationals Park, Morse slammed a two-hopper to the left of Rollins, who had the ball deflect off his glove and into the outfield. "He hit it hard," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It is what it is." The Phillies appealed the call to the league office, and it was overturned Friday. Morse knew he had been hitting well and had some sort of streak going on, but he had no idea it was 18 games. So, naturally, he wasn't too torn up about the ruling. "I guess I didn't have one," Morse said when asked for his reaction. "I don't pay attention to that. It's such a team game. ... I have no clue what [my stats] are. I know I hit two home runs [Thursday]. That was it." Morse said he used to keep track of his numbers when he was in the Minors, but he quickly learned they would linger in the back of his mind. "A lot of guys won't tell you, but you hit a ball out, you hit a couple hard balls and you're out, you hit a ground ball and you're out, you strikeout and you're out -- the next thing you know, you see a lot of guys looking up at the scoreboard, looking at their numbers. Now you're pressing, especially if you're numbers are dropping. Next thing you know, you're swinging at the first pitch. You become like a stat rat." And that's a bad thing when things are going well? "They can always go better," Morse said. "That's how I always look at it. ... No matter what I do today or what I do tomorrow, when the game's over, it's over. Then, I try to do better the next day. I think it's working."