'Outside possibility' Morse returns Friday
Nationals outfielder progressing nicely during rehab stint
MIAMI -- Washington finally got a hint of good news on the injury front Wednesday.
Outfielder Michael Morse, who has been sidelined all season with a torn left lat muscle, feels good after throwing to different bases Wednesday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
Morse began his rehab assignment Tuesday in Potomac, and went 0-for-1 with a walk as the designated hitter before the game was suspended due to rain. Morse has said swinging the bat hasn't been an issue while recovering from the injury, but throwing the ball has, which makes Wednesday's news all the more welcoming for the ailing Nats.
"That's good news," Johnson said. "We got another body that's close to being healthy -- rather than the other way around."
According to Johnson, Morse will play DH twice Wednesday as Class A Potomac finishes the rain-shortened game and then plays its regularly scheduled contest against Myrtle Beach. On Thursday, Johnson said Morse is likely to play in the outfield for Potomac, and that a Friday return to the big league club is an "outside possibility."
Upon Morse's activation, Johnson said he has no plans of easing the outfielder back by using him as a pinch-hitter. Morse hit .303 with a .360 on-base percentage last season as the Nats' cleanup hitter. He belted 31 homers and drove in 95 runs.
"If he's able to go, I'll throw him right out there," Johnson said. "He might connect and hit one hard. He would be a welcome addition."
Johnson added that he's likely to play Morse in right field when he returns to the lineup. Morse strictly played left field last season, but with Jayson Werth on the 60-day disabled list with a left wrist injury, and Johnson wanting to keep leadoff hitter Steve Lombardozzi in the lineup, right field seems like the logical fit for Morse, who played the position when he first entered the league.
Lombardozzi continues to provide versatility
MIAMI -- Steve Lombardozzi has found a niche as a jack of all trades for the Nats.
In 37 games entering Wednesday, Lombardozzi has fielded four different positions, including six starts at second base, 13 at third and one at shortstop. Wednesday's series finale against the Marlins marked his sixth start in left field.
"He's handled it well," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "He's got seven gloves and he does everything."
Johnson joked that Lombardozzi, who earned a Minor League Gold Glove award last season, may have to add a first baseman's glove to his collection if the Nats continue to fall victim to the injury bug. With infielder Chad Tracy likely out for the season with a tear in his groin, the Nats are down a man at first. Should anything happen to Adam LaRoche or Xavier Nady, Johnson said he would likely turn to Lombardozzi.
"It's a very tough job for a young player," Johnson said of Lombardozzi's role on the team.
While Johnson has been impressed with Lombardozzi's versatility in the field, he is also pleased with how he has developed as the team's leadoff hitter -- a role he didn't picture heading into Spring Training. Lombardozzi is hitting .313 with a .376 on-base percentage.
"I really like him and [Bryce] Harper [at the top of the order]," Johnson said. "Both of them are young players. Both of them are selective. Both are in the top three or four in on-base percentage. I like that."
With backstops ailing, Solano gets first start
MIAMI -- A day after recording a hit in his first career at-bat -- and having a family reunion at Marlins Park -- Jhonatan Solano got his first big league start at catcher.
Solano got the call at backstop for Wednesday's series finale against the Marlins while right-hander Chien-Ming Wang made his first start on the mound after opening the season in the disabled list.
Solano, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday, has some familiarity with Wang and caught him some in the spring, according to Nats manager Davey Johnson. Carlos Maldonado, who started the first two games of the series and also caught Wang's first two rehab starts with Triple-A Syracuse, was out Wednesday with a sore back, Johnson said.
Maldonado is just the latest Washington catcher to deal with an injury -- even if it's not a serious one. Wilson Ramos is out for the year with a torn right ACL. Sandy Leon is on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle, and Jesus Flores is dealing with a strained right hamstring.
"It's good that we have Solano here," Johnson said. "Last I checked, he was healthy."
While Flores has missed the entire Marlins series after sustaining the injury during Sunday's win against the Braves, Johnson is hopeful the backstop will be ready when the Nats return home Friday for a six-game homestand. Flores told Johnson that he felt comfortable enough to pinch-hit Wednesday if necessary, but Johnson decided to err on the side of caution since Washington has an off-day Thursday.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez slammed his right index finger in a door, but he hopes the righty will be OK when the team opens a six-game homestand Friday.
Johnson said Rodriguez threw in the bullpen Wednesday, but had to wear a rubber protective brace on his finger because it was swollen.
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.