Many argued that Mike Morse deserved a larger role with the Nationals after he batted .289/.352/.519 with 15 homers in 266 at-bats as a part-time player last season, but he came into camp without a clear path to playing time following the offseason additions of Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel.
Let’s just say he’s trying to force his way into the lineup.
Including a two-run homer off A.J. Burnett earlier this afternoon, Morse is batting .481 (13-for-27) with five home runs, two doubles and nine RBI this spring.
It’s tough to put too much emphasis on spring training statistics, but Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com this morning that Morse has already made an impression.
“He’s gotten an opportunity, and he’s taken the bull by the horns,” Rizzo said. “If opening day was tomorrow, he certainly would be our opening day left fielder.”
Of course, the right-handed hitting Morse is no lock to be a productive everyday player. Though he batted .287 against right-handed pitching last season, an encouraging sign in limited duty, the 28-year-old has never received more than total 300 plate appearances in a single season in the majors. He’s also a below-average defender in the outfield.
Assuming the Nationals let Morse sink or swim in left field — and really, they might as well see what they have here — that would mean Ankiel and/or Roger Bernadina would have to wrestle the center field job away from Nyjer Morgan.
Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.
Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.
It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.
“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”
Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.
This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.
With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.