VIERA, Fla. — The news on the Nationals injuries seems to be getting better each day so here’s a rundown of where things stand before the team’s 6:05 p.m. game against the Marlins (which will be on MASN).
– Michael Morse hit off a tee two days ago and did some throwing on Thursday. All appears to be progressing well for him as he comes back from a right lat strain that stole most of his spring and is expected to take some of April from him. Morse has not been placed on the disabled list yet but he will not appear in a major league game before the spring ends so the Nationals can backdate his disabled list stay to March 26 and make him eligible to return by April 10.
Morse said Friday that he’d been feeling great since he was allowed to return to activities and Nationals manager Davey Johnson even intimated they are struggling to hold him back, urging him not to rush things and make anything worse.
– Nationals closer Drew Storen threw from 60 feet on flat ground on Thursday and said Friday he was expecting to get on a mound on Saturday. Johnson indicated it might not be that soon but Storen is getting close. The Nationals are just trying to be cautious with Storen and not rush him back from elbow joint inflammation.
– Chien-Ming Wang threw long toss from 300 feet on Thursday and Johnson was greatly impressed with the right-handers strength and how he looked playing catch. Wang still has no firm timetable for when he will throw off a mound again after a left hamstring strain but Johnson was encouraged enough to decide Wang will travel to D.C. with the team and they will decide on his next step from there.
Johnson didn’t anticipate Wang needing an exorbitant amount of rehab work once his hamstring feels fully healed, a good sign after how long he spent working his way back to the major leagues. The plan appears to be to try and keep Wang with the team (as long as the weather looks to be cooperating as the team might feel it better for him to get his work in in warm weather) until he’s ready for a rehab assignment. Then, Johnson estimated he would only need two or three starts before he was ready.
“I think his arm will still be ready opening day or it’ll be real close because of his arm strength,” Johnson said. “When he says he’s not feeling it and it’s not hindering him in any way, he’ll do some sides. When we’re comfortable with his side work then we’ll let him pitch, but he’s way ahead of what I was expecting.”
– Outfielder Rick Ankiel had his contract purchased on Friday, adding him to the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Johnson all but said he considers him his top center field option but a left quad issue now may keep him out of the Opening Day roster.
Ankiel has been dealing with the quad issue for most of the spring but he was pulled early from Tuesday’s game and the Nationals have been resting him ever since. Ankiel, who has drawn rave reviews for his approach at the plate and the adjustments he made in his swing to hopefully use the whole field more, has only been taking soft toss in the batting cage.
Johnson admitted he was “a little concerned” that Ankiel was still feeling the issue. The next option, it seems, would be for Roger Bernadina to start in center field and the third line of defense would be moving Jayson Werth or Brett Carroll there if Ankiel is unable to start.
“I’m not real sure,” Johnson said when asked if there was a timetable for Ankiel. “And I’m not going to rush that. I need for him to tell me he’s not feeling it.”
Johnson said the team will give Ankiel a few more days before they consider his status for Opening Day.