Michael Morse was on the verge of coming off the disabled list when he experienced pain while throwing on his minor-league rehab assignment and the news on the Nationals left fielder isn’t good.
General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters that Morse aggravated his torn lat muscle and will be in “total shutdown mode” for at least six weeks, adding that surgery is not an option to repair the injury.
That would still leave some time for Morse to potentially return before the All-Star break, but given his previous setback seeing him in the Nationals’ lineup before the second half seems unlikely. Morse is a huge loss, as he emerged as one of the league’s top hitters during the past two seasons while batting .298 with 31 homers and an .896 OPS in 163 games.
Calling up Bryce Harper from Triple-A to replace Morse isn’t a consideration according to Rizzo, so instead the Nationals will turn to some combination of Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, and Roger Bernadina in bigger roles.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.