Nationals have “reached a near-final decision” to bench Nyjer Morgan for Rick Ankiel

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Last week there was speculation about the Nationals benching Nyjer Morgan in favor of Rick Ankiel and now Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that they’ve “reached a near-final decision” to make Ankiel the starting center fielder.

Morgan has certainly earned the demotion by hitting like a fifth outfielder, running the bases recklessly, and behaving like a jackass, but the odds of Ankiel actually being an upgrade are pretty slim.

Ankiel grades out considerably worse than Morgan defensively and has hit just .232 with a ghastly .298 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage in 196 games over then past two years. Morgan has hit .279 with a .343 OBP during that time, although certainly Ankiel brings far more power to the table.

According to Kilgore the Nationals haven’t decided yet what to do with Morgan, who would wind up back in the minors (or perhaps on the trading block) if they don’t keep him as a bench player.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.