There was some good news coming out of the back corner of the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse Monday afternoon. Left fielder Michael Morse, shut down from all baseball activities since April 11 with a torn right lat muscle, made some light tosses from 50-60 feet on Monday, manager Davey Johnson said. On Tuesday, Morse will be cleared to take some dry swings.
Morse and the Nationals are targeting Friday, June 8 for the slugger’s long-awaited return to the Nationals’ lineup. That date, in particular, because that’s when they’ll open a three-game series in Boston and the start of a six-game trip in American League parks. The hope is for Morse to serve as the team’s designated hitter.
“He said he had no problem (throwing),” Johnson said. “He said he’s going to be ready… That would give him about a month (from now) before he’d have to throw from the outfield. Hopefully that injury would be healed and he’s throwing well enough in the next three weeks to hit and then be able to play.”
It was the most positive update the Nationals have had to date on Morse, who appeared to be on track to return for the Nationals’ home opener on April 12 before he suffered a setback on rehab assignment and tore his muscle further. A six-week shutdown period followed. Morse is roughly four-and-a-half weeks into that period and is just beginning very light activity.
– Closer Drew Storen (bone chip) and reliever Brad Lidge (sports hernia) both made progress in their respective recoveries from surgery on Monday with Lidge throwing from 60 feet for the first time since his May 1 procedure, as well as doing some light jogging, and Storen did some light tossing from flat ground as well. It was the first throwing he’s done since his April 11 surgery.
Lidge said the Nationals are targeting the third week of June for his return but called Monday a “real good first day of the throwing program.”
“I guess the next steps will be lengthening out the toss and then the normal progression from there,” Lidge said. “Bullpens, head down to Florida or somewhere, I’m not sure exactly. My hope is that it won’t take a lot of games. I didn’t have surgery on my arm, which obviously will make things go faster, but I just can’t force the issue. I have to let the surgery take and recover.”
Storen’s timetable is not entirely clear but it was a good first step for him to begin throwing on Monday.
– Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang threw eight-plus innings for Triple-A Syracuse on Monday afternoon, allowing four runs on 11 hits. Wang needed just 84 pitches to get through eight full innings and face two batters in the ninth, who both got hits. He walked one and struck out one in a game televised on MLB Network.
“I saw him pitch and he looked awful good,” Johnson said. “I liked the way he was throwing. I think he’s real close.”
Wang, who is rehabbing a strained left hamstring suffered on March 15, can remain on rehab assignment until May 27 and the Nationals appear to be in no rush to activate him. Putting Wang on the Nationals’ 25-man roster will require a decision on their part on just how they’ll use him or fit him into the rotation with five starters all throwing extremely well right now.
“That’s going to be a decision left up to (Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo),” Johnson said. “The question really comes down to, is he polished off enough to come in and replace one of our starters and give us the same type of effort?
“He should for sure get one more start down there, and then we’ll go from there. But I liked the way he was throwing. That’s what I was seeing in the spring. It doesn’t look like the leg is bothering him. Late in the game, he’s still throwing good strikes. Still had a lot of movement. He looked good.”
The 30-day rehab assignment will allow for Wang to conceivably make two more starts in the minor leagues before the Nationals need to activate him.
– Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth was at Nationals Park on Monday but was not in the clubhouse during the time it was open to reporters. Johnson said he spoke with Werth, though, and Werth told him the surgeon who performed surgery on his left wrist last week, Dr. Richard Berger, left him with some encouraging news.
“Jayson Werth was in good spirits,” Johnson said. “The doctor (at the Mayo Clinci) said by getting it this early, it’ll probably be three weeks earlier on your rehab. So Jayson is upbeat about that.”
– Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament Saturday night fielding a passed ball, was scheduled to meet with Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih on Monday night at 6 p.m. Johnson was unsure if the meeting would lead to a date for Ramos’ surgery or he would be sent for further testing before they took that step.