In an appearance on Sirius/XM's MLB Network Radio show "First Pitch" this morning, Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman said Nationals' center fielder Nyjer Morgan was doing well in spite of recent hip issues, but was placed on the DL after he asked the Nats' medical staff to have a look at what was causing the persistent discomfort. Mr. Riggleman said that the Natonals believe that when Morgan's DL time is up he'll be ready to get back on the field, though it will be an issue, in Mr. Riggleman's words of "pain tolerance" since doctors reportedly, "...don't feel like more damage can be done," to the area that's been bothering the 29-year-old outfielder. One problem though...
MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling reported yesterday in an article entitled, "The outfield outlook for 2011", that, "Several industry sources have said in the last two weeks that the Nationals wouldn't mind making Bernadina their center fielder in 2011." Morgan, the Nats' everyday center fielder before he grudgingly went on the DL with right hip flexor issues, has struggled throughout the 2010 campaign, though he seemed to be improving in recent weeks. Morgan's .261/.322/.322 slash line is a bit underwhelming and his 14 CS in 43 attempts lessen the value of his already low OBP even further. Morgan's defensive issues have been discussed often, with his problems tracking balls over his head earlier this season a cause for concern though he's also made several spectacular defensive plays this year. Morgan's stunning +34.7 UZR/150 last season has dropped to -1.2 this year according to Fangraphs.com. Meanwhile, Morgan's replacement in center, Roger Bernadina, is having the sort of breakout season some have been expecting for several years, had an inconsistent bat and battles with injuries not slowed his progress before this season.
In 86 games and 251 at bats this year, Bernadina's put up a .271/.331/.418 line, with 9 stolen bases in 11 attempts. Bernadina had spent most of his time in center before this season, but the Nats' lack of a legitimate RF option forced the Nats to move the 26-year-old outfielder to right earlier this year. Bernadina's -13.9 UZR/150 in right is underwhelming, though his arm has impressed and caught some off guard, and he hasn't been in center long enough to get a real read on how legitimate his +13.4 UZR/150 as a CF really is.
The big question, however, as Mr. Goessling pointed out, is who plays right if Bernadina plays center? As impressive as Michael Morse has been at the plate, he's not a strong defensive outfielder as Nats fans have witnessed recently, and in the short time he's been starting in right he's already shown signs of an offensive decline...So as the last two months of the season play out, will Morgan take his spot back in center? Will Roger Bernadina support the thinking of Mr. Goessling's "industry sources" and take over as the Nats' CFer, relegating Morgan to the bench and a role as a 4th outfielder? And what role will Michael Morse play in the Nats' future?