WASHINGTON (AP)—Michael Morse waited two months to make his season debut.
Morse started the season on the 15-day disabled list with a strained back muscle. Activated earlier Friday, the hard-hitting outfielder was eager to make a contribution to the Nationals, who began the day in first place in the NL East but mired in a three-game skid.
“I’m back now,” he said Friday afternoon. “It’s better late to the party than never. June 1 is my opening day.”
Make that June 2, weather permitting. A steady storm whipped through the Washington area around 4:30 p.m. Friday and showed no sign of letting up, forcing officials to postpone the game before the 7:10 starting time.
No makeup date was announced, but Nationals manager Davey Johnson said the teams were discussing an August date.
Morse, 28, batted .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBIs last season. His absence left a sizable hole in the Washington batting order. Upon his return, Morse was penciled into the starting lineup in the cleanup spot and in right field.
“He was our best hitter last year,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to give him some respect. Big strong guy. He knows the strike zone. Hits the ball to all fields. He’ll take some pressure off everybody else in the lineup.”
The loss of slugger Jayson Werth increased the need to have Morse’s bat high in the order.
“We really haven’t had that right-handed presence in the lineup,” Johnson said.
Morse originally thought his injury wouldn’t keep his sidelined past March.
“When it first happened, I thought no big deal. One or two days, a spring training kind of thing,” he said. “But to take a couple months out of the season, it hurt. It was a shock at first. I just dug down, said I’ve done this before, and it’s not something I can’t come back from.”
In 2008, Morse had his season with Seattle end in early April when he dislocated a shoulder. This time, at least, he’s got a shot at playing more than 100 games.
“Last I looked he was about 6-5, around 250 pounds,” Johnson said. “He looks in great shape. I’ll handle him like any other player. If he looks like he’s tired, I’ll give him a day off.”
Said Morse: “I’m just going to play the baseball the way I know how to play, stay within my means, have some good at-bats and hold down right field.”
Mike Minor, who was slated to start for Atlanta on Friday, will be moved back to Thursday in Miami, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. Right-hander Brandon Beachy will start against Strasburg on Saturday.
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