Morse starts, exits with left calf strain
Right-handed hitter to factor into right-field platoon
WASHINGTON -- After talking to his coaching staff, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman decided to start Mike Morse in right field instead of Willy Taveras on Wednesday night against Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels.
Morse went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts before leaving the game with a strained left calf. He suffered the injury while catching a sacrifice fly off the bat of Raul Ibanez in seventh inning. Morse is expected to miss a game or two and will be re-evaluated Thursday.
Morse tried to stay in the game, but the pain grew worse and he was replaced in right by Cristian Guzman in the top of the eighth inning.
Instead of using the platoon of Taveras-Willie Harris that was originally planned prior to the season, the Nationals plan to use a rotation of Harris, Morse, Taveras and Guzman. The team picked the Harris-Taveras platoon originally because they are sound defensive players.
But after getting pounded by the Phillies, 11-1, in their home opener Monday, the Nationals decided they wanted Morse's bat in the lineup. In his only at-bat in that game, Morse had a single.
Riggleman pointed out that Morse had a productive Spring Training, hitting .306 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
"Mike had a good spring. He has been swinging the bat well in batting practice," Riggleman said. "I spoke to our coaches. The Phillies have a left-hander going, and I just asked them what they thought. It could have gone one way or the other.
"Willy is a polished outfielder. I'm hoping we get some ground balls with [Nationals right-hander] Jason Marquis pitching. Maybe fly balls may not be that much of an issue. That's my hope. Maybe Morse may pop one for us in the gap. You never know."
The Nats have always loved Morse's bat. Last year, for example, the right-handed-hitting Morse was 6-for-19 with a team-leading eight RBIs as a pinch-hitter. During his career, he has a .324 batting average against left-handed pitching and .277 vs. right-handed pitching.
The right-handed-hitting Taveras, who went hitless in one at-bat Monday, signed a Minor League contract with the Nats last February knowing he could start the season on the bench.
Taveras said early in Spring Training that he would accept the role as a bench player even though he has been a regular for most of his career. In Spring Training, Taveras hit .298.
Harris started the opener in right field and went 0-for-4.
Also receiving an injury scare on Wednesday was reliever Jesse English. The left-hander was drilled on the right calf by a comebacker off the bat of Placido Polanco, but he said he was OK.
Strasburg to make Minors debut Sunday
WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Stephen Strasburg is expected to make his Minor League debut for Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday. He is expected to pitch five innings or throw 85 pitches against Altoona.
According to a team spokesman, 60 media members were slated to be in attendance as of Wednesday.
Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was Washington's best pitcher in camp, allowing two runs in nine innings. He struck out 12 batters and walked only one.
Livan to be activated, pitch on Sunday
WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Livan Hernandez is expected to be activated Sunday and pitch against the Mets that same day at Citi Field. He has been working out in the team's complex in Viera, Fla., and is expected to have a bullpen session or a simulated game Thursday. Hernandez said he will arrive in New York on Saturday.
With Hernandez expected to be on the 25-man roster, a reliever must be taken off. The Nationals currently have eight relievers and Riggleman said performance will determine who stays and who goes.
Zimmerman addresses Phils fans' boos
WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman admitted on Wednesday that he didn't like the Nationals being booed by Phillies fans at the home opener at Nationals Park on Monday.
At the same time, Zimmerman understands the Phillies have a tradition of winning and expects the Nationals to have that same rich history someday. The Phillies fan base grew larger after the team went to the World Series the past two years.
"It's not good when you feel like the visiting team at home," Zimmerman said. "But that's what winning gets you. There are a lot of great teams -- Boston, New York and St. Louis: Those are teams that win. They have rich traditions and everywhere they go, there are fans. That's what we want to be like.
"Are we envious of it? Yeah, of course we are. It's kind of embarrassing to get booed on Opening Day in your home stadium, but that's how it is."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.