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Nats GM Mike Rizzo hopeful Michael Morse will be ready for Opening Day

‘Not looking for pieces’ before season starts

- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2012

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Michael Morse was bouncing around a sparse clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium on Friday morning.

"I feel good," Morse said. "I feel great."

Morse has been held out of baseball activities now for 10 full days, and since being scratched from the Nationals' lineup on March 6 with a right lat strain, has been the recipient of a cortisone shot as well as a platelet-rich plasma injection. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo on Friday confirmed that Morse did indeed get a PRP shot.

After seeing Morse on Friday morning, Rizzo was optimistic that the left fielder and cleanup hitter may still be ready by Opening Day on April 5 in Chicago.

"I feel good about him Opening Day and if not Opening Day, soon thereafter," Rizzo said. "That's the way he looks to me just bouncing around the clubhouse. I saw him running today, he ran the stairs and did a lot of physical activities, not so much baseball activities, but physical activities."

The treatment Morse received, PRP, is an injection of a person's own blood that enhances the healing of injured tissues. According to Nationals medical director Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, it is intended to help speed the natural healing process by concentrating platelets at the site of injury. The hope is that it will aid Morse's recovery and get him back on the field soon enough to where his absence doesn't become a detriment to the team. He is expected to be allowed to begin some baseball activities on Sunday.

"When he's given that go-ahead, then it's kind of up to him how he progresses," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson.

Morse's absence would leave a big hole in the lineup, especially if first baseman Adam LaRoche is not healthy enough to start the season, either. Though Rizzo said he's also optimistic about LaRoche (foot), as he got at-bats in a minor league game on Friday.

With two of his starters seemingly on the path back to full health, the general manager said he is not expecting to be very busy in the coming week as teams begin to pare down their rosters and trade action picks up before Opening Day.

"We're not looking for pieces," Rizzo said. "I think we're pretty comfortable with the team that we have right now, and when healthy, we feel really good about where we're at. As of today, our health status, I feel good about it. Knock on wood, there hasn't been any catastrophic injury that's going to carry into the month of April and to the season and a lot of teams can't say that."

The Nationals came into camp with seven possible starting pitchers, so it was logical that trade speculation surrounded them, particularly left-hander John Lannan, for much of the spring.

But when Chien-Ming Wang injuring his left hamstring a week ago, Lannan became tougher to move, and right now, it appears he's on track to be the No. 5 starter when the season begins. While the news on Wang's recovery has been good, he just started some light agility drills Friday, so the idea of him being game-ready and pitching off a mound by the time the No. 5 slot in the rotation would come up April 10 seems a little optimistic. The Nationals would most likely have to be offered a package they couldn't turn down in order to ship Lannan out at this point.

Washington has also been linked to Arizona center fielder Gerardo Parra and several Nationals scouts have been spotted at its games recently, but the Diamondbacks have told reporters repeatedly that they have no interest in dealing the speedy outfielder, who is also an excellent defender.

For now, the Nationals appear ready to open the season with a 25-man roster configured with the personnel they currently have in camp.

"We're not out there looking for people to call," Rizzo said. "We haven't made any calls. We like the team that we have right now, and if something comes up where we can improve ourselves, we'll see. We'll investigate it. But we're not selling anybody, shopping anybody or making any phone calls because we're comfortable where we're at."

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