Michael Morse was removed from today's Nationals victory in the middle of the fourth inning, a surprise mid-game benching the club said was due to right thumb soreness even though manager Davey Johnson later cited an issue with Morse's hand and Morse himself insisted nothing was physically wrong.
"My hand feels fine," Morse said. "My hand feels good."
Morse has dealt with two separate nagging injuries over the last month. His thumb acted up in mid-August while the Nationals were playing in San Francisco, the result of being jammed on several inside pitches. Then on Aug. 24 in Philadelphia, he was struck by a pitch on the outside of his right hand, knocking him out of the entire series.
Morse hadn't noted any problems with either area since and appeared to be fine through the first 3 1/2 innings of today's game against the Cubs. But when the top of the fourth ended with Morse mimicking a catch in left field as teammate Bryce Harper actually snagged the flyball a few feet away, Morse and Johnson were seen having an animated discussion as soon as he returned to the dugout.
Roger Bernadina then came up to bat for Morse to lead off the bottom of the fourth and took his spot in left field the following inning.
Several innings later, the Nationals announced Morse departed the game with "right thumb soreness."
"Morse was complaining about his thumb/hand, where he got hit, was acting up," Johnson said after the game. "I knew their pitcher was going to pound him in, and I didn't want to aggravate it worse. He didn't want to come out. I just said: 'You're coming out.' I don't need you aggravating [it]."
Morse later insisted the thumb and hand injuries were not connected in any way and insisted neither was bothering him enough to warrant removal from today's game.
Asked if Johnson took him out for precautionary reasons, the outfielder said: "I don't know. I have no clue. Whatever he says."
Johnson did say he expects to have Morse back in his lineup for tomorrow night's game.