Friday, September 10, 2010, 5:50 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
Nyjer Morgan met with MLB vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson for more than four hours Friday, but a decision wasn't immediately made on the center fielder's appeal of two suspensions totaling 15 games so he was free to play in the Washington Nationals' series opener against the Florida Marlins.
Morgan appealed a pair of suspensions -- seven games for an alleged incident with fans in Philadelphia on August 21, eight games for a series of actions that culminated in last week's brawl in Miami -- and is hoping for a significant reduction.
Watson met with Morgan in a conference room at Nationals Park for Friday's hearing, at which point the player made his case. Morgan is particularly trying to get the suspension from the Philadelphia incident reduced or dropped altogether. (He allegedly tossed a ball into the center-field bleachers and struck a fan, though various accounts of the incident suggest nothing serious took place.)
Morgan and the Nationals had expected a final decision to be made before Friday night's game, keeping him from playing against the Marlins nine days after he was the central figure in the bench-clearing brawl. But Watson hadn't made a ruling by gametime, so Morgan remained eligible to play; he started in center field and batted eighth.
Watson was still at the ballpark Friday evening and said he doesn't expect to make a decision this weekend, meaning Morgan will most likely be eligible to play the entire series.
Morgan has been in the Nationals' lineup each of the last seven games since the fight, and manager Jim Riggleman said he didn't give any thought to benching him now.
"No, not at all," Riggleman said. "I think that whole thing is over with. I know it's over with from our end. I'm sure it's over with from their end. If anything happened, I think it would be purely coincidental."
Morgan was instructed not to discuss the appeal with members of the media until a final ruling is made.
Two other players who were suspended for their roles in last week's beanball war in Miami dropped their appeals Friday and began serving their time: Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez (who took down Morgan with a clothesline tackle) and Nationals reliever Doug Slaten (who intentionally hit Sanchez later in the game). Both Sanchez and Slaten's suspensions were for three games, so each will miss the entire weekend series.
Marlins right-handers Alex Sanabia and Chris Volstad, though, are waiting to drop their appeals until after they pitch this weekend. Sanabia, who was suspended five games for his role in the brawl, started Friday night's opener and is due to begin serving his suspension Saturday. Volstad, who hit Morgan with one pitch and then threw another behind him two innings later, is slated to start Sunday and then begin serving his six-game suspension the following day.