Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan went 1-for-3 with an RBI tonight to raise his average to .241.
So at the end of the day, the Nationals got some positive answers about their No. 5 starter, their long reliever and their potential closer. All important developments on March 25.
Yet the biggest issue still swirling around this club six days before its season opener remains the identity of its Opening Day center fielder.
Publicly, the Nationals continue to insist it's a three-way competition between Nyjer Morgan, Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina. Privately, all signs point to Ankiel getting the nod. And since Mike Rizzo admitted there's not going to be room for all three on the roster, either Morgan or Bernadina or both are about to be cut.
Watching Bernadina play tonight, it's tough to imagine him getting sent to Syracuse. He drove in the tying run with a two-out, sixth-inning single. Then he saved the game with a highlight-reel, all-out-diving catch of Tyler Green's sinking liner to left in the eighth.
Bernadina may still get the shaft because he's got options and the Nationals may prefer to keep veterans Matt Stairs and Laynce Nix on their bench, but the guy sure does seem to profile as a solid fourth outfielder who can do a lot of different things to help a team.
What, though, to make of Morgan? He hasn't had a terrible spring by any stretch of the imagination. After going 1-for-3 with an RBI single of his own tonight, he's now batting .241 for the spring. But since his wretched 1-for-16 start, he's hit .316 with a .422 on-base percentage.
Is that enough to convince team officials he should retain his starting job? Apparently not. Which then leaves the Nationals in an awkward position. If Morgan isn't going to start, does he have any value off the bench?
You wouldn't think so, unless the Nationals feel the need to keep a pinch-running specialist who was thrown out on the bases more than anyone in the majors last season.
What about Syracuse? Morgan does have an option, so the Nationals could choose to send him to Class AAA. But is there much to be gained from having a 30-year-old center fielder in the minors? Is that going to magically transform Morgan into the player everyone wants him to be? You wouldn't think so.
Thus, the only conclusion you can draw right now is that Nyjer Morgan's time with the Nationals is just about up. All evidence suggests the club will sever ties with him, in one form or another, before camp breaks.
It's no secret the Nationals have been shopping Morgan around, though there have been no takers. Despite some rumors earlier today that the Brewers might be in the mix, GM Doug Melvin told reporters he has no interest. Not surprising when you consider every GM in baseball knows there's little reason to give something up for Morgan now when he's likely to be available for free in a matter of days.
So perhaps a clean break is forthcoming, an unconditional release. Read as much or as little into this as you want, but Morgan is not listed on the travel list for tomorrow's game in Kissimmee. The only other position players not scheduled to travel are Adam LaRoche (who has been shut down for a few days to nurse his sore shoulder) and Jerry Hairston (who has started the last three games).
This isn't the time of spring to be leaving key roster members behind. Is it possible Morgan survives and makes the Opening Day roster? Perhaps. But it appears to be a minute possibility at best.
We've all known a decision of some type on Morgan would have to be made. It figured to come down to the end of camp. Well, the end of camp has just arrived, and it's time for the Nationals to make their decision.
Either Nyjer Morgan is part of this team moving forward or he's not. And right now, the safe bet is that he's not.