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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 knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan

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Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger. 

When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue. 

Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season. 

Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans. 

Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts. 

Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010. 

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