On just about every episode of 106.7 the Fan's The Mike Rizzo Show, the Nats' GM is asked what the future holds for Washington Nationals' slugger Michael Morse? What happens when Adam LaRoche returns from surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff issues in his right shoulder? Will Morse remain at first?
"Michael Morse has done enough to solidify himself to hit in the middle of [the Nats'] lineup that's for sure," Mike Rizzo said when asked yet again, "In a perfect world we get the Adam LaRoche that we signed that's a 25-HR, 100-RBI Gold Glove [calilber first baseman]," the Nats' General Manager explained, "Mike Morse goes to left field and is a 25-35 HR, 100-RBI left fielder and we've really replaced two powerful bats in the lineup."
Still it was a surprise to many when Nats' Skipper Davey Johnson, in mentioning the names of potential September call-ups like outfielders Corey Brown and Roger Bernadina, middle infielder Stephen Lombardozzi, first baseman Chris Marrero and pitchers Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, Craig Stammen, Yunesky Maya and Atahualpa Severino, mentioned that Michael Morse might spend some time in left field to allow Marrero to get a look at first and allow Morse to prepare for next season when Adam LaRoche is likely to return at first.
Marrero, one of the Nats' two '06 1st Round picks along with RHP Colton Willems, has impressed again offensively this season, following up on a 27 double, 17 HR, .284/.358/.452 '09 campaign with Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg and a 28 double, 18 HR, .294/.350/.450 season in 2010 spent exclusively at Harrisburg with a 30 double, 14 HR, .310/.387/.471 year at Triple-A Syracuse, during which he has reportedly improved significantly defensively after struggling in the field over the course of his six seasons in the Nats' system.
Morse, of course, has flourished since replacing the injured Adam LaRoche at first, after starting the season in the outfield and struggling out of the gate. The 29-year-old hard-hitting middle-of-the-order bat enters play today with a .323/.372/.566 slash, 29 doubles and 21 HR's in 108 games and 414 plate appearances, but as Johnson too is quoted stating in Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak's article entitled, "Michael Morse, Nationals call-ups and looking toward the future", the Nats seem to think they're better off with both LaRoche and Morse in the lineup. "Ideally," Johnson told the Washington Times' reporter, "when LaRoche comes back, we'll have LaRoche at first and probably [Morse] in left field. But definitely, we'll have him somewhere every day."
Morse has earned the right to play every day, and proven in the last year that he can produce given the chance in the last two seasons. Chris Marrero, who's been in the organization since he was seventeen, has a .287/.355/.461 slash in six years, and at 23, he's ready for a look. Adam LaRoche has another year at $8M dollars on his deal, a slick glove at first, and an 8-year history of producing the sort of numbers the Nationals were looking for this year and expect next season. Are the Nats better off with both bats in the lineup? September will provide a preview of not only what Marrero can do, but also how Morse might handle the transition. LaRoche will have to make a complete recovery before any other decisions are made.