The Nationals and Marlins finish their three-game series tonight at 7:05, and for now, it appears the festivities will start on time. The grounds crew just pulled the tarp off the field, and the sun is out, though there's more rain in the forecast.
Josh Willingham is out of the lineup again today, resting his sore left knee. Before the game, manager Jim Riggleman discussed the injury and said Willingham wanted to play tonight. Willingham has been battling soreness in his knee all year, but Riggleman said the injury flared up when Willingham slid awkwardly into second base during the last homestand. He is supposed to be back in the lineup tomorrow. Contrary to a published report, Willingham said he does not have a torn meniscus.
Nyjer Morgan took early batting practice today and was running on the field before the game. Riggleman said general manager Mike Rizzo will make a determination on whether or not Morgan will need a rehab assignment later this week; Rizzo is currently at the owners' meetings in Minnesota. But Morgan, who is on the disabled list with a strained right hip, is "chomping at the bit" to get back on the field, Riggleman said.
And rounding up our pregame notes, from left field to right field in the Nationals' typical starting lineup, Riggleman praised Roger Bernadina, who's been playing center field in Morgan's absence. The Nationals wanted to spend the better part of this year seeing if Bernadina was an everyday player, and Riggleman said the 26-year-old is "making it tough not to think of him as one of the regulars."
Riggleman said Bernadina is a very capable center fielder, but will return to right field when Morgan comes off the DL and reclaims his starting job. "I haven't seen him play left very much, because that's where Willingham is at, but I've been told that's his best position," Riggleman said. "Right (field) has been a bit of a learning process for him, the way the ball comes off the bat. But he's gotten better and better."