ATLANTA -- The Nationals' bullpen has been getting a little crowded lately, with more relievers demanding playing time due to their strong work on the mound.
Sean Burnett is back and healthy. Christian Garcia has looked outstanding since being called up. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are both capable of closing games. And the rest of the crew hasn't been too shabby, either. So, with what some might consider an overabundance of talent, has it been hard for manager Davey Johnson to find spots to use them all?
"Are you kidding me?" Johnson replied. "The way it's been going, they've been working to the max all year long."
Indeed, Johnson was able to use eight of his 10 relievers -- everyone but Zach Duke and Chien-Ming Wang -- during the Nationals' games against the Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday. Clippard picked up the save Tuesday, and Storen got the save Wednesday.
"Everybody is doing a great job in the roles they're in right now," Johnson said, "but I have no qualms if Clip went a couple days [in a row] going back to Storen."
Johnson was asked about Wang's role on the pitching staff the rest of the way, answering that the right-hander is a part of the bullpen. A starter most of his career, Wang missed 58 games with a right hip injury and struggled during his rehab assignment. Wang threw a bullpen session Wednesday in New York but hasn't pitched in a game since getting rocked for six runs over two innings in a Double-A rehab start on Sept. 1.
"He didn't finish up as good as we liked, so he's not beating anybody out in the rotation," Johnson said. "But I like his stuff, and I like his experience. He'll be coming out of the 'pen."
Morse may sit out entire series in Atlanta
ATLANTA -- Michael Morse was out of the lineup again Friday night and might not play in the Nationals' weekend series against the Braves due to his injured left wrist.
Nursing a bone bruise and a slight tear in the sheath encasing his left wrist, Morse didn't even take batting practice Friday at Turner Field. He said he will report back to the park Saturday, go through treatment, see how he feels and determine the next step from there. But Morse didn't sound optimistic about getting back on the field this series, and neither did Washington manager Davey Johnson.
"I kind of knew it was being real optimistic that he could've been available [Friday]," Johnson said. "I think it's more likely next Tuesday, and he's still bothered by it.
There are plenty of reasons to play it safe with Morse. First, the Nationals have several capable backups itching for playing time in Roger Bernadina, who started Friday night, Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore. Second, there is no need to rush Morse back and risk making him worse, especially when he hasn't been able to hit for his usual power while dealing with the injury.
"He's got to come through a full workout before I even want to take a chance on him. I don't want to make it worse," Johnson said. "And we've got three guys champing at the bit who'd like some playing time while he's out. ... We're all right."
Finally -- and Johnson downplayed this side of it -- the Nationals have a healthy lead in the playoff race and could clinch a playoff spot as early as Saturday. A healthy Morse would be more valuable to Washington in the playoffs than a banged-up version would be right now.
"You don't want to run somebody out there that's hurt and that could hurt worse," Johnson said. "He's been nursing it for a month, and the results haven't been that great, either. He's been getting some hits, but he's not hitting with power."
The Nationals could officially clinch a playoff spot this weekend, the franchise's first since 1981 and Washington's first since 1933. Given the postseason drought of the organization and the city, and the team's dominant run through a division they weren't expected to win, one would assume that will turn into a moment of celebration, right? Not so much, according to manager Davey Johnson.
"It's not a big moment. It's a nice moment, but it's not a big moment," Johnson said. "The additional Wild Card, to me, just put more of a burden on the manager because nobody wants that one. The one-game playoff to get in -- the other format, if you were the Wild Card, you're in the playoffs. So, clinching a one-game playoff doesn't have any appeal at all to me."
Johnson reiterated that he has no plans to shuffle or reorder his rotation the rest of the season. The only time Johnson tinkered with his starters was in an effort to give Jordan Zimmermann, dealing with shoulder soreness at the time, an extra day of rest.
"I haven't skipped a fifth starter. I haven't done anything," Johnson said. "That one time, I did that little change in the rotation."
The Nationals' next win will be their 90th of the season, and it will give Washington its first 90-win club since the 1933 Senators won 99 games.