ATLANTA — The news on Michael Morse and his torn right lat continues to be good as the left fielder played in his first extended spring training game on Friday. The game, which was Morse’s first game-action since he took himself out of a rehab game on April 9 with what turned out to be a re-tear of his lat muscle, went well for the Nationals’ cleanup hitter.
Morse homered as part of a 2-for-3 day as the designated hitter down in Florida and also did a good deal of throwing work, according to Nationals manager Davey Johnson.
“He did well,” Johnson said. “He flied out to right, hit a home run over the center field (fence) and had a base hit. He also went from first to third, so his legs are all right. The report after the game was his arm felt good throwing.”
Morse is scheduled to play three more games in extended spring, keeping him in Viera, Fla., through Sunday, and the plan is for him to make his first minor league rehab appearance on Monday with Single-A Potomac.
Potomac opens a homestand Monday night at Pfitzner Stadium against Myrtle Beach.
The Nationals have said they expect Morse back “for sure” by June 8 and there is a possibility that he could return sooner if he’s ready. In order for him to return sooner, Morse will have to have no concerns about throwing, which is what the injury affects most.
“The question is, how does Morse feel tomorrow after his first time out in more than a month?” Johnson said. “I’m not getting my hopes up.”
In Morse’s absence, left field has been something of a black hole for the Nationals offensively. Left fielders have combined to hit .153 with a .240 on-base percentage and .245 slugging percentage, unacceptable stats from a corner outfield spot.
Steve Lombardozzi, who is hitting .317/.385/.378 but is a natural second baseman and infielder, figures to continue to see more time in left field with Morse out, as he’s the team’s best option offensively.