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Morse could return for Nats' next homestand

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Morse could return for Nats' next homestand

Though he's been targeting a June 8 return for some time, injured left fielder Michael Morse believes he could actually rejoin the Nationals sooner than that, perhaps during their next homestand.

Morse, out since spring training with a torn right lat muscle, has begun swinging a bat and playing catch for the first time since he was shut down during the first week of April after experiencing a setback while on a rehab assignment with Class A Hagerstown.

The Nationals have targeted the June 8 date as a likely return because it would allow Morse to ease his way back by serving as designated hitter for interleague series in Boston and Toronto.

Morse, though, told manager Davey Johnson this week he believes he could be ready when the Nationals open a six-game homestand on June 1 against the Braves.

"That was my day June 8," Johnson said. "I threw that out there trying to give the trainers and the doctors a date that I wanted him back swinging, because he could DH against the American League clubs on the eighth. We'd been set for that for about three weeks, and he came to me and said: 'When you come off the road trip, I'll be ready.' But he's feeling his oats."

Before the Nationals let Morse return that soon, they'll have to be convinced his injury is completely healed -- at last check, doctors said the tear was 80 percent healed -- and see evidence of him both hitting and throwing in rehab games.

Morse intends to go to extended spring training in Viera, Fla., next week while the Nationals are on the road. If things progress well there, he could go play for one of their minor-league affiliates around Memorial Day.

"He looks strong," Johnson said. "I've been in the workout room when he's working out, and he's doing things that you can't do when you're hurt. He's lifting things and doing things. He's in good shape. I'm not worried about him running around the outfield, because he's been doing a lot of aerobics and stuff like that and his legs are in great shape. As big and strong as he is, the doctors tell him he can go, and they're expanding and letting him do pretty much everything right now. So I don't think it's going to take much time."

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Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan Rodriguez becomes first former Nationals player to be voted into Hall of Fame

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history. 

Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him. 

During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.  

In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons. 

Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store

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Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to invest in Matt Wieters, Greg Holland more than facilities

Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract

On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.

Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop. 

It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series. 

Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster. 

Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.

The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda. 

There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others