VIERA, Fla. — The big news this morning from Viera was that Stephen Strasburg will be the Nationals’ Opening Day starter — which is more symbolic than anything but does intimate, of course, that he’s their unquestioned No. 1.
But there was one small update on the status of injured left fielder Michael Morse (lat strain) and first baseman Adam LaRoche (foot bone bruise).
Both are scheduled, for now, to begin baseball activities again on Sunday, March 25.
However, Johnson intimated today that if there is even a slight setback, the Nationals will not rush either player to be ready for Opening Day — at least acknowledging the possibility that one or both could start the season on the disabled list. LaRoche appears the closer of the two to being able to get back into baseball work but neither has tested their injured area in several days.
“We’re going to be ultra-cautious,” Johnson said. “If the doctors feel if we don’t baby them it could be something that lingers, I’m going to monitor it real close and I’m not going to push them to get them ready by Opening Day if they think that’d be a setback.”
Johnson said Morse is feeling like he’s getting close but the Nationals’ medical staff has been on him to refrain from activity until they give him the go-ahead.
Morse has not swung a bat since last Tuesday, March 13, and his activity has been limited solely to cardio work and leg work. If Morse does return to action on the 25th, it will have been 12 days since he swung a bat or attempted to throw.
Johnson said he’s more focused on both being ready at the plate than he is about either of them in the field.
If Morse is forced to the disabled list before Opening Day, it would open another roster spot, at least in the short-term for one of the Nationals’ outfield hopefuls in Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, Brett Carroll and Jason Michaels.
– Nationals closer Drew Storen was feeling much improved after being knocked out the past few days with strep throat. Storen played catch on flat ground today and the plan is for him to throw off a mound tomorrow as he begins to ramp back up to game shape.
Storen, as he tells it, went a little too hard in the first few weeks of spring training and was also dealing with some normal soreness two weeks ago in his bicep and triceps area. His arm, though, is fine. His down time was just extended by the sickness that hit him at the end of the period in which he was taking it slow. And Storen didn’t seem to think he’d have any issues being ready by the time the bell rings on Opening Day — especially because he doesn’t need to build up all that much endurance to begin with.
“It’s like the Interstate,” Storen said. “Once I get on the Interstate, I’m good. I don’t want to rush it. If I really try to rush it, that can come back and bite me in the middle of the season. Obviously that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”