NEW YORK — While the Nationals were getting some not-so-good news on their closer, Drew Storen, Monday afternoon at Citi Field, they did get encouraging news on outfielders Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel.
Morse and Ankiel, who spent the weekend rehabbing with Double-A Harrisburg in Bowie, Md., were both set to play for Single-A Hagerstown Monday night. Morse was expected to play nine innings for the first time since he strained his right lat in early March and if all went well he’d play nine more on Tuesday.
Morse is eligible to return to the Nationals’ active roster on Tuesday but manager Davey Johnson said they did not plan to activate him immediately, citing cold weather in New York, and preferred to do so before the team’s home opener on Thursday.
“I don’t see any sense in rushing him up here,” Johnson said. “It’s going to get colder up here by Wednesday and I’d just as soon him not make the trip. Stay there, get treatment and be ready to go. It depends on how he does today and tomorrow.”
Ankiel is not eligible to return until April 14 and Johnson said the center fielder has been working at about 80 percent. The plan is for him to get up to 100 percent by Wednesday and then back off a bit before they return him to the active roster. It appears he will be ready to return as soon as he’s eligible.
The Nationals will have to clear two spots on the active roster for Morse and Ankiel with Roger Bernadina, Brett Carroll and possible Steve Lombardozzi candidates to be removed from the roster. Both Bernadina and Carroll would need to clear waivers in order to be sent to the minor leagues as neither has an option remaining. Lombardozzi does have options left but sending him down would be more out of a desire to get him playing every day. Lombardozzi has had two at-bats in the Nationals’ first three games.
Johnson did not want to speculate on how the Nationals would clear the space for the outfielders.
“We’ve got a couple more games, see how things transpire,” he said. “When it comes time to make that decision. I’ll make it.”
– Chien-Ming Wang continued his rehab from a strained left hamstring with another bullpen session that went well in Viera, Fla. Johnson reiterated, though, that Wang will need at least three more bullpen sessions before he can face live hitters, presumably in a simulated game.