Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan had two hits and two stolen bases in his return from a hamstring injury.
The Nationals host a split-squad Tigers bunch tonight. J.D. Martin gets his first start in a big-league game this spring, and while the Nats say they want to see the right-hander in action, this feels more like a token appearance than anything. Jim Riggleman said this afternoon it's "a good bet" that Craig Stammen will make the Opening Day rotation. So assuming Livan Hernandez is also in after last night's dominant performance against the Yankees, there are no more available spots for Martin or Scott Olsen. Martin could squeeze his way into the bullpen as a long man, though, and could certainly help his cause with a nice performance tonight.
Meanwhile, Nyjer Morgan is back in the lineup after missing more than a week with a tight hamstring. We'll want to watch closely how he moves around in center field and on the bases.
Check back throughout the late afternoon and evening for updates...
TIGERS (SS) AT NATIONALS
Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Fla.
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Weather: Cloudy, 72 degrees, Wind 11 mph in from LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Mike Morse
2B Alberto Gonzalez
DH Eric Bruntlett
(P J.D. Martin)
CF Austin Jackson
LF Johnny Damon
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Jeff Larish
C Alex Avila
2B Scott Sizemore
SS Adam Everett
3B Brent Dlugach
DH Andy Dirks
(P Jeremy Bonderman)
6:45 p.m. -- We're 20 minutes from first pitch, and the stadium lights still aren't on. Are they trying to save money or do we have to worry about some technical issues here?
6:58 p.m. -- Seven minutes to first pitch and still no lights. They've already sung the national anthem. Players are warming up. Are they just going to play without lights?
7:00 p.m. -- BREAKING NEWS: We've got flickering in the light standards!
7:20 p.m. -- Ragged start for J.D. Martin. He retired the first two batters of the night, but then everything fell apart after that. Magglio Ordonez singled up the middle. Jeff Larish walked. Alex Avila sent a broken-bat single to center. Scott Sizemore roped a ground-rule double to right-center. Adam Everett sent a hard chopper off Ryan Zimmerman's glove for a double. And Brent Dlugach singled to center. By the time the inning finally ended, the Tigers had batted around, scored five runs on five hits and all but knocked Martin out of the rotation race.
7:24 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan pops out to short but looks perfectly fine running down the first-base line. Remember: This is Morgan's first game in more than a week, since tweaking his hamstring.
7:37 p.m. -- Martin was better in the second, though he still allowed a pair of singles. Through two innings, he's allowed five runs and seven hits.
8:08 p.m. -- Martin has settled down pretty nicely since that disastrous start. He just retired the side in the fourth and hasn't allowed a hit since the second or a run since the first. The Nats, meanwhile, scored in the bottom of the third when Alberto Gonzalez took third on a wild pitch and then scored when left fielder Johnny Damon booted the ball. Nats trail, 5-1, heading to the bottom of the fourth.
8:23 p.m. -- Another run for the Nationals in the bottom of the fourth, though they could have scored more. Had the bases loaded with nobody out, but Mike Morse struck out, Alberto Gonzalez brought the run home with a ground out and Eric Bruntlett also grounded out to end the inning. Tigers lead 5-2.
8:27 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan beats out a bunt to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Guess that hamstring is just fine, thank you very much.
8:31 p.m. -- And Nyjer just stole second and third bases.
8:40 p.m. -- Give J.D. Martin credit. After that disastrous first inning, he battled back and kept the Tigers from scoring again. His final line: 5 ip, 7 h, 5 er, 1 bb, 3 k, 87 pitches, 54 strikes.
9:18 p.m. -- We're in the eighth now, and the Tigers have taken a 7-2 lead. Miguel Batista gave up a run in the seventh. Tyler Walker just gave up a run of his own on a pair of doubles in the eighth.
9:39 p.m. -- Just got back from talking to J.D. Martin and Nyjer Morgan in the clubhouse, and all of a sudden it's raining! They're playing through it, but plenty of fans have bolted for cover and the postgame fireworks show could be in jeopardy.
9:45 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Tigers win, 8-2.
10:22 p.m. -- J.D. Martin blamed his ragged first inning on trying to be "too fine" with some of his pitches. He doesn't think nerves were a factor in his first big-league game in two weeks. "I don't think that had anything to do with it," he said. "It was just a rough start, one of those days, one of those innings." Jim Riggleman complimented the right-hander for battling his way back to finish strong. "I thought he did a heck of a job, with the exception of that four-hitter span in the first inning that cost him five runs," the manager said. Longer post on Nyjer Morgan's impressive return to the field coming up shortly on the homepage.