Washington left fielder Mike Morse is out until at least June with an injury, but that doesn't mean the Nationals will rush 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper to the majors.

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One of the burning questions this season — at least for me — is when Nationals phenom Bryce Harper will get called up to the major leagues. And I feel strongly it’s a matter of “when,” not “if.”

The Nationals had a development this week that would seem to affect that timetable. Former Mariner Mike Morse, who signed a two-year, $10.5 million contract extension in January on the strength of his strong 2011 season, was shut down for six weeks after aggravating his back injury.

The Nationals had been hoping Morse, who hit .303 with 31 homers last year, would be ready for last Thursday’s home opener. But during a minor-league rehab game on Monday, Morse reinjured himself making throws from left field, and doctors have ordered him to refrain from all activities for six weeks. General manager Mike Rizzo said there is no surgery for this injury, just rest and treatment.

The upshot is that Morse, slated to be Washington’s left fielder, will be out until at least mid-June. For now, manager Davey Johnson is using veterans Mark DeRosa and Xavier Nady in left, and Roger Bernadina could get playing time when center fielder Rick Ankiel returns from an injury.

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But you have to wonder about the 19-year-old Harper, who is starting the year at Class AAA Syracuse. Through his first seven games, Harper was hitting just .222 without a homer. Rizzo says he’s not going to rush his top prospect no matter the circumstances with Morse.

“We’ve got a plan for him, and when he’s ready to come up we’ll certainly think about that,” Rizzo said. “But this injury, we’ve got in-house candidates we feel comfortable with. It doesn’t change where we’re at with Bryce’s timetable.”

Finally, Darvish gets

some run support

Yu Darvish told reporters it was “incredible” to watch the Rangers score 11 runs off Mariners pitching in his major-league debut.

He’s not kidding. According to research by The Dallas Morning News, Darvish’s run support with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League was nothing close to what he should get in 2012.

Last year, Darvish never received more than eight runs in any game, and the Fighters scored two runs or fewer in 14 of Darvish’s 19 starts. He was in three 1-0 games, winning two of them. Overall, Darvish’s run support was 2.86 per game, which would have ranked last in MLB. Tim Lincecum of the Giants had the lowest run support in the majors last year at 2.94 runs per game.

Francoeur’s fans

Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur won over the fans in the right-field bleachers in Oakland by having 20 pizzas delivered to section 149 on Wednesday. Francoeur has always gotten a kick out of the A’s bleacher bums, even when they’re giving him a hard time.

“They’re die-hards,” Francoeur told The San Francisco Chronicle. “Those are the people you feel bad for with all the stuff that’s going on right now — whether they’re going to move or not. Those are the fans who obviously love coming out and being a part of it.”

Their relationship with Francoeur began two years ago when he engaged in friendly talks with the fans after they razzed him. Last year, he tossed a ball wrapped in a $100 bill up to the fans and suggested they buy bacon and beer, according to the Chronicle.

Last week, during a rain delay, those fans gave Francoeur a green T-shirt with the words, “Second Annual Bacon Fest sponsored by Jeff Francoeur.”

“I’m going to wear it, and they’re getting me another one signed by the whole group,” Francoeur said. “It’s awesome.”


• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny needs to make 12,214 more pitching changes to equal the major-league record of his predecessor, Tony La Russa, who had 12,235.

• Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, on why he’s glad C.J. Wilson is on his team now: “I could have built a clubhouse with the bats he’s broken.”

• No mystery why the Indians signed Johnny Damon: They need offensive help. In their season-opening five-game homestand, they had a .176 team average.

Chipper Jones went straight from the DL to the Braves’ starting lineup Tuesday without a rehab stint following knee surgery. He made a great defensive play on the first pitch of the game, singled in his first at-bat, and homered in his second. As he rounded the bases, teammate Eric Hinske yelled from the dugout, “It can’t be that easy!”

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