Washington Nationals: Nyjer Morgan Or Tony Plush?

Washington Nationals' center fielder Nyjer Morgan had no comment when asked by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore on Monday about the fact that DC Skipper Jim Riggleman had decided to remove the 29-year-old outfielder from the leadoff spot in the Nats' batting order. In a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Nyjer Morgan moves out of the leadoff spot", Mr. Kilgore quoted Mr. Riggleman explaining that the move (switching Cristian Guzman to the leadoff spot with Morgan batting second) was made because:

"'A lot of parts of his game right now, he's frustrated with - his base stealing, his on-base percentage,' Riggleman said. 'I think he knows he's a better center fielder than he's showed to this point.'"

While he made no comment about the move in the press, Morgan went out on the field in Minute Maid Park on Monday and played one of his better games in recent memory, going 3 for 4 with a walk, two stolen bases, a sac bunt and 4 runs scored. During the game, however, the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore reported (in several tweets) via Twitter (@adamkilgoreWP), that Morgan's response to Mr. Riggleman's decision to remove him from the leadoff spot wasn't the same no comment he'd offered the press: 

Jim Riggleman: "I dont think he was too happy about it, which didn’t make me happy... I thought he should be feeling like, ‘Yeah, OK, let’s go.’ I think it didn’t it didn’t sink in real quick for him that it was something good for him and something good for the ball club. But that’s okay."

In his second game in the two-spot last night in Houston, Morgan was 2 for 5 with two runs scored and his 9th RBI of 2010. Whether or not he wanted to move out of the leadoff spot, it seems to have woken Morgan up some, as he's responded to the switch by going 5 for 9 with with two stolen bases and 6 runs scored in the last two games after he'd been mired in a 2 for 23 slump in the previous six games. Morgan missed a fly ball to center late in the game last night, but no one blamed Morgan since it seemed to have more to do with Minute Maid Park's gimmicky outfield walls. 

After taking DC by storm following the trade from Pittsburgh last season, hitting .351/.396/.435 in 49 games with the Nationals, Morgan's hitting just .256/.329/.349 51 games into the 2010 campaign. (.831 OPS to .677). After stealing 42 bases in 59 attempts in '09 (24 of 31 attempts w/DC), Morgan's just 11 for 19 this season, and his defense has fallen off as well with his UZR/150 dropping dramatically from (+34.7) on the year in 2009 to (-12.1) in 51 games in center this season. Whether or not Morgan will admit it, something needed to change, did DC Skipper Jim Riggleman make the right call in moving Morgan out of the leadoff spot? Hard to judge after two games, but with neither Guzman or Morgan ideal leadoff men right now, a return to 2009's form from Morgan will certainly help the Washington Nationals continue to remain competitive in the NL East...We'll see.

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