The Nationals selected outfielder Jorge Padilla from Triple-A Syracuse and placed outfielder Austin Kearns on the 15-Day Disabled List, retroactive to Aug. 4, with a right thumb contusion.
Padilla’s first appearance with the Nationals will mark his Major League debut. He joins the club after batting .367 (114-for-311) with 18 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 21 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 95 games with Syracuse. An International League All-Star earlier this season, Padilla entered today leading the league in hitting (.367) and on-base percentage (.424). Padilla’s 114 hits are tied for fourth most in the league and he is tied for sixth in the circuit with 58 runs. The 29-year-old was riding a nine-game hitting streak at the time of his promotion, hitting at a .394 (15-for-38) clip with five extra-base hits and two RBI over that period.
In 11 minor league seasons (1999-2009), Padilla has posted a .287 career batting average with 85 home runs and 519 RBI in 1,142 games. He signed with Washington as a Minor League free agent on Nov. 27, 2007.
Kearns, 29, has batted .195 with six doubles, two triples, three home runs and 17 RBI in 80 games this season.
Coghlan – LF
Johnson – 1B
Ramirez – SS
Cantu – 3B
Uggla – 2B
Hermida – RF
Ross – CF
Baker – C
Johnson – P (RHP, 10-2, 2.87)
Morgan – CF
Guzman – SS
Willingham – LF
Dunn – 1B
Dukes – RF
Harris – 3B
Gonzalez – 2B
Nieves – C
Martin – P (RHP, 0-2, 7.50)
The Nationals are now undefeated in their last four series, going 2-0-2.
Josh Willingham was named NL Co-Player of the Week on Monday for the period ending August 2. Willingham went 11-for-26 (.423) with three doubles, three home runs, 11 RBI and five walks in six games on the week to earn the citation. He shared the weekly award with the Giants Tim Lincecum (2-0, did not allow an earned run in 17.0 innings). Willingham’s candidacy was buoyed by his historic two grand slam, 8-RBI effort on July 27 at Miller Park. With that effort, Josh became just the 13th Big Leaguer, the third NL player, in baseball history to hit two bases loaded homers in the same game.
Cristian Guzman has hit safely in 10 straight games, going 19-for-43 (.436) with four doubles, two home runs, 12 RBI and 13 runs scored. Guzman is in the midst of the Nationals’ sixth double-digit hit streak of the season, one (a 10-gamer, June 17-27) of which he registered himself.
The Nationals hope to fry the fish tonight and end the 10-game skid. Going back to the final game last season, the Marlins have posted 10 consecutive wins over the Nationals. The 10-game win streak ties a Marlins record for longest win streak against one opponent, most recently done against the Chicago Cubs from April 26, 2006-September 27, 2007.
Nick Johnson is playing for a different team but getting the same results. He is tied for fourth in the National League with an on-base percentage of .412. In his Marlins debut Saturday night, he reached base in five of his six plate appearances, drawing two walks, collecting two hits and being hit by a pitch. He became the first Marlins player in franchise history to reach base safely five times in their Marlins debut. He was traded to the Marlins on July 31 in exchange for LHP Aaron Thompson. While with the Nats, he posted a .295 average (104-for-353) with six home runs and 44 RBI in 98 games.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is batting .349 (84-for-241) with 16 home runs and 44 RBIs in 61 career games against the Nationals.
When Nyjer Morgan was traded to the Nationals along with left-hander Sean Burnett from the Pirates for outfielder Lastings Milledge and relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan at the end of June, there was little known about Morgan and Burnett outside of Pittsburgh. The 29-year-old Morgan entered the season fighting for a job in left field with less than a year of Major League service time and Burnett was a middle reliever, the least glorified position in baseball.
What was clear from the trade was if players don’t fit the newly formed Nationals player mold, they won’t be on the team for long. Rizzo cleaned out their bullpen, reshaped the starting rotation and found a centerfielder that covers more ground than Rock Creek Park. There isn’t a pitcher in the bullpen that was on the Opening Day roster. Lastings Milledge tried to play centerfield but he had his own agenda, showed up late for team meetings and was quickly made an example out of when they demoted him to Triple-A Syracuse. Joel Hanrahan struggled as a closer in 2009. He blew his first two save opportunities of the season and converted only five saves in 10 chances with the Nats this season. Morgan and Burnett have quickly made names for themselves.
In Morgan’s first month, he set the Nationals (2005-present) record for hits in July (40) and stolen bases in a month (14). Morgan is batting .387 (43-for-111) with six doubles, a triple, a homer, seven RBI, an MLB-best 14 stolen bases and 20 runs scored in 28 games with the Nationals. Burnett has been the left handed reliever the Nats missed the first three months of the season. In 13 appearances, Burnett has posted a .098 (4-for-41) batting average against and a 2.5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to one hold and a 0.73 ERA (1 ER/12.1 IP).
It isn’t a secret what Morgan has meant to the team.
“We now have a true centerfielder with speed and a true leadoff man who can steal some bases and get on base,” Third Base Coach Pat Listach said. “He causes some havoc and we can manufacture runs with him in the lineup.”
“He stabilized the centerfield position,” outfielder Austin Kearns said. “When you get a true centerfielder like him you appreciate it, you realize how important that is so that’s kind of been something that we’ve been missing here.”
“I think, he’s really the first true centerfielder we’ve had here,” Adam Dunn said. “His speed makes up for a lot of mistakes.”
Nyjer Morgan wants to be the mayor of NatsTown and he will get your vote. Don’t expect him to campaign with cheesy commercials and cliché catch lines. He will just be himself and it will win you over. All you have to know is that Morgan will always give 110 percent. (I know it isn’t possible but Morgan turns impossible odds upside down.) He played baseball for the Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College Warriors for two seasons and was drafted by the Pirates in the 33rd round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. He signed for $2,500 and now is starring at the Major League level.
To truly know Nyjer Morgan you have to know Tony Plush–his alter ego or gentleman’s name. In Pittsburgh, they only know him as T. Plush.
To know Tony Plush is to know a person who doesn’t believe in gravity, limits or accepting defeat. Every base can be stolen and every ball can be caught. To know Tony Plush is to know a person who at all times has more energy than the sun but still says he keeps it toned down to play the “gentleman’s game” of baseball. To know Tony Plush is to know, as he says it, “a person who is out there.” Not only out there in centerfield but more along the lines of out there right between funny and flamboyant.
It took Morgan less than a minute to become comfortable on the top bench of the clubhouse. Once he did, it was joke after joke. He is a comedian with a smile as big as Texas… just don’t catch him after he sat in traffic for an hour. He has a distinctive high-pitched laugh that follows each line. It has only been a month but he already loves Washington. “It is the perfect place for me to really show my game skills off,” he said. “I was fired up just to come over here.”
He is confident. He still thinks he can play in the NHL and Interim GM Mike Rizzo loves his hockey mentality. Believe it or not, Morgan says he has to keep his emotions and energy contained to play baseball.
“I have to control my emotions because it’s more of a gentlemen’s like game and you’ve got to think it more, you can’t really react on your emotions and everything,” Morgan said. “I definitely learned how to harness the two. But my hockey background does play in a lot out here on this diamond.”
“He’s got a lot of energy. In everything he does in life, he’s got a lot of energy. He’s always got a smile on his face, always upbeat, kind of a positive influence on everybody,” Burnett said. “If you’re having a bad day he’ll cheer you up just with his energy level. As a baseball player when he gets on the bases he rages havoc and I know, being a pitcher, he’s not a guy you want on the base path.”
Morgan grew up in Northern California during the generation that watched Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders excel as two-sport Major League athletes in the late ’80s and early’90s. Morgan dreamed he would be the next one–an All-Star on the ice and the diamond.
He always dreamed big. He had to. He is generously listed at 6-feet-0 and might be 175-pounds soaking wet, that isn’t the ideal height and weight for a forward on the ice rink.
By the age of 16, hockey was his primary focus and he left his home in California to play junior hockey in Canada. Baseball wasn’t on the backburner but it wasn’t getting as much heat. (Morgan was drafted out of high school at Enderby, B.C. by the Rockies with the 1,260th pick but he never signed.) He jumped around a few hockey teams and eventually landed a spot as a forward with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, a major junior hockey team. As it would turn out, he played just seven games with the Pats. Soon after his stint with the Pats, Morgan found out he was going to be a father. In the fall of 2000, he retired the skates and started school. The rest is history.
To read “Meet Tony Plush” pick up the latest issue of Inside Pitch at Nationals Park during this homestand against the Marlins and Diamondbacks. Click HERE to purchase tickets.