WASHINGTON - JUNE 05: Nyjer Morgan #1 of the Washington Nationals reacts after striking out against the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park on June 5, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Nyjer Morgan
Six months after taking exception to a Chris Volstad wild pitch and charging the mound to start the brawl, Nationals center-fielder Nyjer Morgan claims Ricky Nolasco hit him with a pitch on purpose in the first inning of the Nationals spring training game against the Marlins on Sunday.
Unlike in September, Morgan did not even glare at Nolasco on Sunday, taking first base and seemingly taking no offense. Perhaps he was simply trying to avoid another clothesline tackle at the hands of Marlins first-baseman Gaby Sanchez.
But when asked if he thought Nolasco threw at him on purpose, Morgan told MLB.com after the game, "No question, without a doubt," adding, "It's obvious because of what happened last year."
"What happened last year" included Morgan needlessly barreling into Marlins catcher Brett Hayes at a play at the plate. The collision separated Hayes' shoulder and ended his season. The next day, Chris Volstad hit Morgan with a pitch in retaliation, then tried throwing at Morgan again for stealing two bases in what was by then a blowout.
When given the chance to take the high road Sunday afternoon, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman declined, and instead said, "Nolasco is the only one who really knows if he threw at him or not." Nolasco denied hitting Morgan on purpose.
Before accusing him of headhunting, Morgan and Riggleman may want to consider the entirety of Nolasco's outing Sunday afternoon, his first game action of the year. Immediately after hitting Morgan, Nolasco issued a four-pitch walk to Alex Cora. He also hit another batter in the first inning. Nolasco himself admitted his control was not sharp, telling the Miami Herald, "I was just kind of all over the place."
It's difficult to accuse a pitcher of aiming at you (and connecting) when he can barely find the strike zone.
But perhaps imaginary feuds are what it takes to get the Nationals going these days. Having lost 93, 103, and 102 games in the past three seasons, September's brawl with the Marlins was one of the Nationals' more lively performances in recent memory.