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Nyjer Morgan barrels into Atlanta catcher Brian McCann Thursday in the Brewers' 4-2 victory over the Braves at Miller Park. (PHOTO: Allen Fredrickson)

Brewers' Morgan makes his case for more playing time with hot start

You don't have to look much further than the ninth inning Friday night to see the separation between Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez.

Trailing the Cubs, 7-4, Morgan led of the inning by slapping Carlos Marmol's first offering, a fastball, into right-center for a single. With two on and two out, Gomez worked the count to 2-2 before swinging at a slider away.

It's been that kind of year for Gomez, who still induces sighs of frustration from fans despite an improved work ethic during Spring Training. It's also been that kind of year for Morgan, who has been impressive in his short time with the Brewers.

The natural assumption, when the Brewers traded late in Spring Training for Morgan, was that he would provide insurance and ultimately replace Carlos Gomez in the starting lineup when the latter inevitably reverted back to his old ways.

The sample size may be small, but Morgan is certainly making a case for himself these days.

He's hitting .500 (8-for-16) with a double, triple and two sacrifice bunts. Gomez, meanwhile, has been mostly silent since homering in his first at-bat of the season. His next 16 plate appearances resulted in absolutely nothing and after the loss Friday to Chicago, is hitting .207 (6-for-29) with nine strikeouts.

In short, Morgan is doing all the little things -- bunting, advancing runners, being selective at the plate -- the Brewers are hoping to see Gomez incorporate into his game though Manager Ron Roenicke has been reluctant to make Morgan the regular, every-day center fielder, though with Corey Hart still recovering from a strained oblique muscle, Roenicke plans to use both players as much as possible.

"As long as he keeps doing well and Corey isn't back here, he will be out there quite a bit," Roenicke said of Morgan. "I'm not going to say he's everyday, but he will be out there quite a bit."

Gomez is being helped, for now, Hart's unavailability, though it remains to be seen how long Roenicke will keep batting Gomez in the No. 2 slot. Friday, Morgan hit seventh.

"It's way too early to change that," Roenicke said. "I know he got out of what he was doing in spring training for a couple of days. We'll see what happens. I'm not saying I'm going to stay with (Gomez) second all year."

Morgan has been impressive at the plate and on the base paths, but has also performed well in the field. Prior to this season, he'd only played six games in right field during his four-year career and has matched that total already in 2011.

Primarily a center fielder, Morgan has proven more than capable, especially Thursday against Atlanta, when his diving catch of Alex Gonzalez's line drive ended a Braves threat and protected a one-run Milwaukee lead.

His play impressed the manager.

"He's exciting to watch," Roenicke said. "He plays hard. He's a spark when he's out there running around."

For Morgan, though, it's all in a day's work. Playing hard and grinding it out is the only way he knows.

"I've been doing this ever since I got called up, and I don't know anything else.," Morgan said. "I'm not going to hit home runs or anything like that, but as long as I can get on base and make things happen, that's all I can ask for."


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