Good afternoon from Nationals Park. A few pregame notes as the Nationals prepare to start their series with the Marlins:
* Jayson Werth and Michael Morse are both out of the lineup tonight, getting days off in favor of Roger Bernadina and Laynce Nix. Werth has been playing with a sore knee, and manager Davey Johnson said he probably would have put up a stronger fight to be in the lineup if he had been the only one getting a night off. A break for Morse made it more palatable, though.
* Nix is starting for the first time since Sept. 1, having worked through a sore groin injury. "He told me he was feeling good a couple days ago, and he was ready for sure yesterday," Johnson said. "I said, 'One of my rules is, if you tell me you're really ready, if you've gone through all the workouts and everything, I give you another day.' He said, 'I can live with that.' So being true to my word, he's in there."
* Asked where he sees Morse fitting in the long term, Johnson said, "I know there were some conversations - in the media, from his agent - that it was kind of cruel and unfair treatment to be moving a guy that's performing at a high level. But again, it all goes back to what's best for the team. He's going to have to play out there if Adam LaRoche comes back and does the things he's capable of doing." The conversation inevitably drifted to Chris Marrero, who is hitting .292 with seven RBIs in his first 18 games and has made a number of impressive plays at first base. "I don't know how many games he's saved picking up short throws," Johnson said. "The thing I've been most impressed about is, when he first came up, he hit some balls, got a lot of base hits, but he wasn't hitting them that hard. Increasingly, since he's been here, his hits have gotten harder. So he's getting more comfortable."
But where does Marrero fit long-term, assuming LaRoche is back from shoulder surgery next year and Morse is in left field? Johnson hinted again he would prefer Marrero to be in the majors to get at-bats against left-handed hitters and spell LaRoche from time to time, rather than going back to Triple-A Syracuse.
"I'm trying to let the picture become clearer by what he does this year," Johnson said. "I think if you would have asked the general manager without the opportunity for him to play this year, he would probably say to you, 'I want him to go back and play every day. He's a young player.' But given the fact he's come up here and been successful, the new manager, the GM, will probably think, 'You know, he could be that complement to Adam LaRoche if he can't go, or if it's a tough left-hander.' It wouldn't be bad to have a guy that's proven he can handle it up here, even if he's 18 years old. Well, he's not 18. He's 23. Get the picture?"
We'll let you interpret if there was a Freudian slip - or a hint being left - with that last quote.