PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It looks like Willie Harris has a new platoon partner in right field. Manager Jim Riggleman said Thursday that Willy Taveras will play against left-handed pitching.
Riggleman said he decided to go with Taveras because the speedy veteran can play solid defense. For the spring, the right-handed-hitting Taveras is hitting .302 with a home run and five RBIs.
Taveras beat out Mike Morse for the job.
"If we are not going to put a right-field bat out there, we probably want to go with somebody who can cover ground with speed," Riggleman said. "Mike does a good job, but Willy has a chance to be an exceptional outfielder for us. We would take advantage of Willy swinging the bat from the right side and playing defense."
A center fielder by trade, Taveras has played every day the last five years of his career with the Astros, Rockies and Reds, but said he is willing to accept a role off the bench. He signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals in February.
"I was trying to make the club. This is my first time coming off the bench," Taveras said. "I'm going to work hard, do my best and help the team win some ballgames. We need to win. That's the bottom line."
As for Morse, he most likely will see most of his time at first and third base, while coming off the bench as a valuable pinch-hitter.
"We feel there is a place for Mike on the ballclub, but he is not opening up as our right fielder," Riggleman said.