Johnson tells Zimmerman, Morse to relax and “just go play”

After Sunday’s game, a game in which Michael Morse went 0-for-4 at the plate, dropping his average to .211, he approached manager Davey Johnson and asked to be dropped in the batting order.

“I’m killing the team,” Morse told Johnson.

“No, you’re not killing the team,” the Nats’ manager replied. “You’re going to be fine. You’ll be carrying us in a minute. I’m not worried. I don’t want you worrying.”

Morse and Ryan Zimmerman are frustrated with the way they’ve been swinging the bat lately, which is why both sluggers were out on the field at 3:30 this afternoon taking early batting practice with Johnson and hitting coach Rick Eckstein watching on from behind the cage.

Johnson has had conversations with both struggling hitters about their approach and poor results, and he’s told them his main concern is that they’re trying to do too much instead of just letting their natural talent take over.

“It’s my job to be concerned, but I know the ability that’s there, and I’m not worried about it,” Johnson said. “It’s different with a younger player trying to do too much, but basically it’s the same thing. You try to overcompensate or feel like you’re back and you haven’t been here in a while and you’ve got to hit two home runs the first game or something like that. Just see the ball, try to meet it and don’t try to kill it.

“And this guy we’re facing today (David Price), he likes his fastball. So you need to be on time. You can’t be thinking about tomatoes.”

With Zimmerman, Johnson said that the third baseman’s right shoulder (which landed him on the DL for 17 games at the end of April) might be a bit of an issue, but it’s likely affecting Zimmerman’s mental state more than it is his physical performance.

“I’m sure with that shoulder that’s bothered him, I’m sure he’s tried to compensate maybe in his approach and stuff,” Johnson said. “And basically (I want him to) break it down and be a little more simple. Simplify and be in a position where he feels comfortable more.

“You want to be in a position where you’re more relaxed and you’re not testing it all the time. When you sometimes think about some things that have been bothering you a great deal, you lose sight of the fact that your main job is the opposing pitcher and timing him, having good timing on all of his pitches. I thought that’s where what the injury was causing him problems to do that.”

Both Zimmerman and Morse have displayed a shocking lack of power recently. Zimmerman has only 13 extra-base hits in 201 at-bats, while Morse has four doubles and no home runs in his 14 games this season.

Morse’s struggles are likely due to the fact that he missed nearly all of spring training and only recently was able to get back in the box against live pitching, while Zimmerman had the shoulder issue which was (and still might be) bothering him. But Johnson’s message to both guys has been cut-and-dry.

“Just relax,” he says. “I’ve got confidence. Just go play.”

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