More Nyjer, Please

“I’ve seen enough of Nyjer Morgan for one series,” said Braves play-by-play announcer Chip Caray this afternoon as Morgan made a diving catch on an Alex Gonzalez fly ball to end the sixth inning.

Nyjer Morgan doing what he does best.

Indeed, if I were a Braves fan, I would probably be pretty sick of Nyjer Morgan right about now. Morgan, acquired essentially as an afterthought right at the end of spring training, came up big in the Atlanta series. He got his first start of the season in right field on Monday, and struggled a little, going 0-2 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt while hitting seventh. Of course, no one was really doing anything with the bat against Brandon Beachy on Tuesday, so the fact that he got on base is something.

On Tuesday, Nyjer got the start in center field over the struggling Carlos Gomez. Morgan, hitting second, came up big, going 3 for 4 with a triple (although that could have been an out, but Braves RF Jason Heyward lost it in the lights). Morgan was thrown out at home plate in the game, but the three hits helped get a sputtering Brewer offense going, and even though they only managed one run, they came away with their first win of the season.

Morgan came on to pinch hit in the eighth on Wednesday and knocked another base hit. He was reinserted into the starting lineup today, and picked up one hit in four at bats – a double, which he followed with a stolen base, which he followed by taking out catcher Brian McCann at home plate on a ground ball by George Kottaras, which forced McCann to lose the baseball and allowed Morgan to step on home plate for the Brewers’ third run – and ultimately difference-making – run.

“He’s a spark,” said Ron Roenicke.

Morgan doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the majors – he sparked a serious brawl last season and was suspended for a significant amount of time as a member of the Nationals. His teammates have very nice things to say about him, though – check out Ryan Braun’s quote from today:

“I love it, man. He’s awesome. He’s a great teammate, he’s very passionate, very emotional. He plays the game tough. He plays the game hard. I think we’re really fortunate to have him on our team.”

Now, I’m going to try not to be too tough on Carlos Gomez. Ron Roenicke and Dale Sveum swear that Gomez looked better in spring, even if we haven’t really seen it in the regular season thus far. Gomez did bunt for a couple of hits today, which was nice, and he made a great throw from the outfield last night to get Chipper Jones at home in the first inning. It’s also hard to judge a player on a sample size from seven games.

However, when I look at right field, I see that Mark Kotsay and Erick Almonte are both low-upside players who aren’t great in the field anymore. Corey Hart still doesn’t know when he’s going to be back. It could be a month. Why not put Morgan in right field as a regular between now and then, and then assess the situation between Morgan and Gomez when Hart returns?

Nyjer Morgan’s time had kind of run out in Washington – he didn’t have a great season there last year, he had some behavioral issues, and Washington appeared to be moving on from him, so they traded him. But look at Nyjer’s 2009 season, split between Pittsburgh and Washington: .307/.369/.388 with 3 home runs, 39 RBIs and 42 stolen bases. That was just a year and a half ago. Morgan is 30 years old, and still appears to have all of his speed.

If this week’s series is any indication, the Brewers would benefit greatly from making Morgan a full-time player, at least until Hart comes back, and maybe beyond. He’s a good fielder and a professional hitter, and he offers that “spark” that Ron Roenicke talked about. He is very fun to watch. Chalk me up as a guy who would like to see what Nyjer could do with regular playing time.

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  2. […] already spoke earlier in the week about Nyjer Morgan, who continued to play well over the weekend. He started in […]

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