ATLANTA -- Not only is Michael Morse, who has been nursing a sore left hamstring since the Nationals' mid-week series in Denver, healthy enough to play, but the slugger remained in his usual cleanup spot against a lefty on Saturday, and could soon find himself there against right-handers.
Morse, who was 4-for-4 with the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning Friday night against the Braves, left the game after that inning because he told manager Davey Johnson that his leg was starting to trouble him.
"He came to me at the end of the seventh and said, 'Skip, it's starting to tighten on me. You might have to run for me," Johnson said.
Morse's home run trot took care of that issue before Rick Ankiel moved to right field for the remainder of the game.
Morse, who boosted his batting average from .215 to .294 in the five games leading up to Saturday's contest, has routinely been batting cleanup against lefties, but fifth against righties. When asked about him staying in the four-hole on a daily basis, Johnson said it was a definite possibility.
"I can't remember hitting him any other place when I was here last year," Johnson said. "And I like the separation of two batters between [Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche]."
Entering Saturday, Morse had hit fourth in 11 games and fifth in 14. Last season, he hit fourth in 85 games and fifth in 39.
Johnson: Nats have many deserving All-Star nod
ATLANTA -- For the first time since 2005, the club's first season in Washington, the Nationals could have more than one player selected to the All-Star Game, and manager Davey Johnson believes there could be a handful of them.
"I have a good feeling that we might have 3-4 on the ballclub," Johnson said Saturday. "And they're certainly deserving."
The All-Star teams will be unveiled Sunday on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS at 1 p.m. ET. The 83rd annual Midsummer Classic, played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, will be on FOX at 8 p.m. on July 10.
Johnson said he hasn't heard from National League manager Tony La Russa, but knows the former Cardinals skipper is keen on shortstop Ian Desmond. Pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper are also solid candidates.
Entering Saturday, the Nationals had baseball's best team ERA (3.12), and three pitchers -- Gonzalez, Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann -- with ERAs which ranked amond the NL's top 13. Strasburg -- who will have one more start before the All-Star break following Saturday's outing in Atlanta -- also leads the league in strikeouts.
But Johnson declined to speculate Saturday how Strasburg's possible selection for the team could impact his regimen moving forward.
"If he makes the All-Star Game, and if he pitches in it and how much they use him, that will determine it," Johnson said. "But more than likely, I'll wait and make the final decision after I see what happens on that Tuesday."
Henry Rodriguez has made progress in his rehabilitation from a strained finger, manager Davey Johnson said, and the right-hander could rejoin the club soon.
"I think he's ready," Johnson said. "The reports I'm getting -- he was supposed to go back to back, and he didn't get to do that because of the weather. But when he does that and has a day off, it'll be up to [general manager Mike Rizzo]. He's done everything we've asked of him, so he'll be back pretty soon." Johnson was pleased Saturday afternoon because he ran into Jay Howell, who was pitching for the Dodgers in the 1988 playoffs against Johnson's Mets when Howell was ejected for having pine tar on his glove. Johnson caught another player with pine tar on his glove last week, when Tampa Bay's Joel Peralta was ejected and eventually suspended for eight games.
"Jay Howell came in and the first thing he said to me was, 'You at it again?'" Johnson said with a smile.