Michael Morse could fill in at third for Nationals

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Jim Riggleman put Michael Morse at third base in the eighth inning of the team’s exhibition opener against the Mets, and Morse (who was drafted as a shortstop) looked good there, making a nice stop and throw in the eighth.

If the Nationals need to give Ryan Zimmerman a day off at third, Morse could find himself there again, Riggleman said.

“We don’t have a lot of third basemen in camp,” Riggleman said. “We’ve got a lot of everything else. (Alberto) Gonzalez plays a real good third. But if you want to give Zim a day off, everybody else is a middle infielder, primarily, before they’re a corner (infielder). To pick up some innings there, it’s going to be (Jerry) Hairston (Jr.) and Gonzalez. And if they’re out of the game or we need them in the middle, Mike’s a good option there.”

If there’s any implication on the roster from that, it might be another sign that Gonzalez has few ways to make the team. The Nationals will likely keep four outfielders, as well as Hairston. With a second catcher on the bench, there are two spots left, and if Matt Stairs makes the team, it’s Gonzalez or Alex Cora for the last spot. Gonzalez has been fantastic at third base, but if Morse and Hairston can play there, his value might decrease somewhat.

As for Morse? He said the last time he’d played third was “probably in Triple-A” when he was traded from the Mariners to the Nationals in 2009. “I was actually hoping to get more balls over there,” he said. “You never know who’s watching.”