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Brewers increase speed with Morgan

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Tom Haudricourt
March 28, 2011
— The Milwaukee Brewers made it clear Sunday that Carlos Gomez remains their No. 1 center fielder, but that didn’t stop them from acquiring Nyjer Morgan from Washington to provide insurance at the position.

The Brewers sent minor-league infielder Cutter Dykstra and $50,000 to the Nationals for Morgan, a speedy center fielder who had worn out his welcome in Washington. General manager Doug Melvin said two days earlier he had no interest in Morgan but said the situation changed when the Nationals lowered their asking price.


“Sometimes, the prices change on things,” said Melvin. “Two days ago, it didn’t appear we were going to do anything. We made contact with them again, and it came down to him getting a change of scenery. Maybe they felt it was the best thing to move him.


“We look at it that we still need protection in case Carlos gets hurt, the way he plays. We were looking for a good player.”


The Brewers eliminated one candidate to back up Gomez on Friday by trading Chris Dickerson to the New York Yankees for reliever Sergio Mitre. That left Mark Kotsay, Brandon Boggs and Jeremy Reed as the spare outfielders in camp, with Kotsay slated to replace injured right fielder Corey Hart at season’s start.


After the trade, Melvin informed Boggs that he wouldn’t make the club. Teams don’t announce when players are placed on waivers but that’s what the Brewers did with Boggs, hoping he will clear and report to Class AAA Nashville.


Melvin and Roenicke also met with Gomez to inform him that Morgan wasn’t acquired to take his job.


“We probably didn’t need to have the conversation, but I think it should have taken place,” said Roenicke. “He’s our center fielder until something changes my mind on that.


“We just wanted to make it clear to him that we weren’t getting a guy to replace him or that they were going to platoon or whatever. Things change in a season, but Carlos is our centerfielder.”


Gomez, a career underachiever who is having a better camp (.339, 3 HRs, 12 RBI), said he appreciated Melvin and Roenicke meeting with him and indicated he was prepared to keep the starting job in center.


“They told me, ‘It’s your job,’” said Gomez. “It feels good when people trust you like that. They’re giving me an opportunity again. I came ready for this.”


Gomez said he wasn’t upset about the acquisition of Morgan because it makes the Brewers a better team.


“I’m not looking at it in a bad way,” he said. “Now, we’re a competitive team. We’ve got a good lineup, good starting pitching. I just want to do my job. I’m ready.”


Morgan, 30, became expendable in Washington when he didn’t perform well enough this spring to convince the Nationals to go with him in center instead of a platoon of Rick Ankiel and Jerry Hairston Jr. Morgan realized he was on the way out and said in a recent interview, “I just don’t think this place is for me. It’s time to move on.”


Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said those comments did not prompt the trade of Morgan.


“Players say things out of frustration all the time,” said Rizzo. “That didn’t play into it at all.


“Nyjer had a nice spring training. After the first week, he played really well and did everything he had to do. It’s just that I feel it was Ankiel winning the job, not Nyjer losing the job.”


The speedy Morgan made headlines for all the wrong reasons last season.


On Aug. 25, he received a seven-game suspension for throwing a ball at a fan in the stands at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. He appealed the suspension, and it was dropped after the situation was examined.


A week later, Morgan became involved in a bean-ball war with the Florida Marlins. The previous night, he separated the shoulder of Marlins catcher Brett Hayes in a collision at the plate that Florida players thought could have been avoided.


Florida’s Chris Volstad hit Morgan with a pitch in his second at-bat the next night. When Volstad threw behind Morgan in his next at-bat, Morgan charged the mound and was clotheslined by Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez, touching off a wild brawl. Morgan ripped open his jersey upon exiting the field after being ejected.


Morgan received an eight-game suspension for his role in that altercation as well as a $15,000 fine. He earlier had drawn the wrath of the St. Louis Cardinals for running into catcher Bryan Anderson, who had stepped out of the baseline when a throw to the plate was cut off.


Melvin said he looked into those altercations, talked to some people about it and came away convinced that Morgan is not a troublemaker.


“We think he’ll be OK here,” said Melvin. “I think he’s a player with a lot of fire in him and a lot of energy.”


. He’s not the only guy we have with fire and emotions.


“You don’t want him to be disruptive on your team. We made some calls, and people came back and said he’s a good guy. He’s a (former) hockey player. They play with emotion. He might have learned from what happened last year. He’s not a bad guy.


“He’s got some talent. He can run some balls down. Last year, he had a bit of an off year, but in ‘09 he was a pretty good player. He’ll fit in with our club. We view him as a little more than an extra guy right now.”


In parts or all of four seasons with Pittsburgh and Washington, Morgan batted .283 with 77 RBI and a .344 on-base percentage. He stole 92 bases but was caught 42 times, leading the league twice with 17 failures.


Last season, Morgan batted .253 with 24 RBI and 34 stolen bases in 136 games with Washington.


Dykstra, 21, was a second-round draft pick in 2008 but played his way out of top-prospect status with a poor showing in 2009 at Class A Wisconsin (.212) and a return to rookie Helena (.244). He also had to cope with the financial misfortunes of his father, former big-leaguer Lenny Dykstra.


Dykstra bounced back in 2010 to bat .312 in 100 games with Wisconsin with five homers, 39 RBI, a .416 on-base percentage and 27 stolen bases. Moved from second base to third, he committed 22 errors.



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