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Morse finds stroke in opposite field

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Morse finds stroke in opposite field

Not that anyone was really worried Michael Morse's 0-for-the-season would continue forever, but as the outs started piling up there was at least some question about when hit No. 1 would finally come.

Then Morse erased those doubts in fairly emphatic fashion, lacing a double to right-center in the bottom of the fourth Tuesday night, snapping an 0-for-9 slump to begin his injury-shortened 2012.

Morse admitted he needed to get that first hit out of the way to clear one last mental hurdle associated with the torn lat muscle that sidelined him three months.

"Oh yeah," he said. "The first one, you kind of hit the barrel and you know when that hand-eye coordination comes in. It felt good. And like I said, it kind of clicked."

It certainly looked like things were clicking for Morse eight innings later, when he again drilled a double to right-center, this time striking the wall on the fly, to jump-start the Nationals' game-winning rally.

That display of power to right-center, something Morse put on display throughout his breakthrough 2011 season, was perhaps the surest sign to date he has fully recovered from his injury and is starting to find his groove at the plate after a slow start.

The key, Morse explained, was his ability to let the ball travel deeper into the strike zone and not be overanxious.

"The last couple days, I've been kind of connecting way out in front," he said Tuesday night. "So I've been trying to see the ball deep today. I tried to really focus on right-center. That's my power. That's where I usually hit. So after I hit that first one there, it really felt normal. It felt right."

Manager Davey Johnson noticed the same adjustment from Morse, allowing him to take advantage of his power to the opposite field.

"When you're out a long time like he was, the tendency -- with any hitter, but especially with Michael Morse -- is he's going to be out in front more than he's going to be behind, which is what he was the first couple games," Johnson said. "He hates to get jammed like any hitter, and he was trying to do something with it. So he was a little early. But he stayed with the ball better last night."

Morse figures to remain entrenched in the heart of the Nationals' lineup moving forward, though it appears he'll get at least some defensive break over the weekend when the club heads to Boston.

Needing a designated hitter in American League parks, Johnson said he's likely to tab Morse.

"I had a little discussion with some of my coaches, and I think it would be a good time to DH him, regroup and let him do some throwing," Johnson said. "But he's throwing fine. He's perfectly healthy. He hasn't had any complaints since coming back. And I like the way he's starting to swing the bat, too. But it will give us an opportunity to play some other guys."

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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

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Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

Nationals avoid arbitration, reach deal with Bryce Harper and three others

The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration and agreed to one-year deals today with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Tanner Roark and newly acquired catcher Derek Norris.

If team's and players didn't agree to contracts by today's 1 p.m. ET deadline, an independent arbitrator will rule on the contract at a later date and decide how much the player will play for in 2017. 

Harper and the Nationals agreed to a $13.625 million deal, which was significantly more than the $9.3 million contract that was projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Last season, coming off his 2015 MVP campaign, Harper made $5 million. The 24-year-old will be a free agent after the 2018 season. 

Harper is coming off a disappointing season by his standards, in which he hit just .243 with 24 homers, which was way down from his total of 42 dingers in 2015. 

According to multiple reports, Rendon signed for $5.8 million, Roark signed for $4.315 million and Norris' deal was for $4.2 million.

Roark made just $543,400 last season, which he vastly out-performed. Roark was one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League last year as he won 16 games and posted a 2.83 ERA in 210 innings of work. 

With today's signings, all of the Nationals' arbitration-eligible players are under contract for 2017. 

Related: Tanner Roark to replace Max Scherzer on World Baseball Classic roster