Mike Morse making season debut as Nationals cleanup man after missing 50 games

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After missing the first 50 games with a strained lat muscle Mike Morse is off the disabled list and hitting cleanup for the Nationals tonight in his season debut.

During the past two-and-a-half seasons Morse quietly emerged as one of the NL’s best bats, hitting .295 with 49 homers and an .889 OPS in 276 total games after the Nationals acquired him from the Mariners for Ryan Langerhans in mid-2009.

In addition to cleaning up Morse is also playing right field, where he saw zero time last season. He does have 74 career starts there, 64 of which came in 2010 for the Nationals. Xavier Nady is in left field, with Bryce Harper starting in center field for the eighth time in his first 31 games.

The Manny Machado deal was done days before it was actually announced

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Last week as the Manny Machado trade drama was playing out, I and a lot of other people suspected as early as Monday and into Tuesday morning that the Orioles already had a deal in place for Machado and that they were just keeping it under wraps in order to get through the All-Star break (a) without any awkwardness; and (b) with the Orioles still having an All-Star representative. It would be Wednesday morning before the Orioles would make it official.

Turns out we were wrong. Machado was actually traded before Monday morning. Basically anyway, with the Orioles going so far as to pull him out of last Sunday’s game early because of it. And, of course, they lied about it. From Bob Nightengale of USA Today who spoke with Machado following his debut weekend with the Dodgers:

It was a week ago Sunday when Machado homered for the 24th time this season, the Orioles playing the final game of the first half against the Texas Rangers, when he was removed after the fourth inning after a 26-minute rain delay.

The Orioles told reporters after the game it was simply for precaution, making sure Machado didn’t get hurt playing on a wet field.

They may have fibbed to everyone else, but they told Machado the truth.

“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.

That didn’t stop all of the usual rumor-mongering reporters from tweeting stuff about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” A bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run.

In the final analysis this is all benign. Teams lie about stuff all the time and a day or two in either direction made no difference to anyone involved. Still, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.