The Washington Times - April 7, 2012, 12:52PM

CHICAGO — With each day that passes, Washington Nationals outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel inch their way closer to the active lineup. 

Morse (lat) and Ankiel (quad) combined to go 3-for-6 on Friday night for Double-A Harrisburg with two homers and a double between them. Ankiel will return to the Harrisburg lineup on Saturday, serving as the DH and hitting third, while Morse will travel to New York for treatment from a doctor who was recommended to him by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jayson Werth.


Morse was scheduled to be off Saturday anyway but Nationals manager Davey Johnson mentioned the left fielder did feel a little discomfort when throwing, though not when swinging. The visit should not prompt a red flag, Johnson said.

“Just knowing he’s going to have the day off, he just ran up there to get a little treatment,” Johnson said, adding that Morse would not remain in New York awaiting the Nationals’ arrival but would return to rehab assignment after his treatment on Saturday.  “I think it involves, massage, chiropractic stuff.”

Asked if Morse was totally healed, as far as the team knew, Johnson said: “Yes. I mean, is anything totally healed? I’m not totally healed.”

Morse is eligible to return from the disabled list on April 10, Ankiel shortly thereafter on April 14, and the Nationals will have two decisions on their hands when it comes to their outfield mix. Right now, it appears Roger Bernadina, Brett Carroll, Chad Tracy and possibly Steve Lombardozzi are among candidates who could be moved to clear space for the two Nationals’ starters.

Johnson said he is already “prepared to make” the decision, but had no intentions of discussing it Saturday. 

“There’s a lot of things that have to happen between now and the 10th and the 14th,” he said. 

Lombardozzi, of course, is the only one of those four who has a minor league option remaining and could be sent to Triple-A without risk of losing him. But the Nationals would then be thin in the middle infield as Lombardozzi is the primary backup at both second base and shortstop and Johnson especially likes the late-game advantage Lombardozzi’s switch-hitting ability gives him.

For Bernadina, Tracy and Carroll, it depends on how Johnson feels he’d view each of them once Morse and Ankiel return to the lineup, as well as a left and center field. It’s interesting to note that Xavier Nady’s name isn’t in that group and that’s because Johnson views him as his primary right fielder if and when Werth is moved to center field against left-handed pitching (which he would be with Bernadina currently the starting center fielder).

Johnson mentioned that item when asked if he’d go ahead with his idea to platoon Adam LaRoche, which he discussed in spring, as the first baseman works his way back from both a spring foot injury as well as June labrum surgery. With the platoon situation in center, Johnson said he didn’t think it’d be prudent to platoon in both places.

“It’d be a little more difficult for me to platoon both of them, a first baseman and center fielder,” Johnson said. “So LaRoche has got a pass for another week or so… The caliber of player that LaRoche is and also with a limited spring, hitting against left and right will help him come along faster than missing at this point.”

The Nationals don’t have to make any decisions until Morse and/or Ankiel are 100 percent ready to return, but that day seems to be fast approaching.