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Drew Storen resumed throwing today but needs a few weeks to build his arm back up.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Though neither figures to miss much time, both Drew Storen and Michael Morse are expected to open the season on the disabled list.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said as much this morning in updating the status of his closer and cleanup hitter, suggesting each will probably need to remain in Florida after camp breaks next week and go through a short rehab stint before rejoining the roster.
By late afternoon, though, the Nationals had received encouraging news on Morse, whose strained lat muscle has completely healed. He's been cleared to resume baseball activities, though the chances of him being ready for Opening Day still appear slim.
"I'm not going to be that optimistic," Johnson said following a 3-2 victory over the Mets. He added that the clean sonogram taken today of Morse's right shoulder "was the best news I had."
The outlook is even better for Adam LaRoche, who has been cleared to return to the lineup tomorrow after missing time with a foot injury. Johnson said he may still give the veteran first baseman one more day off as a precaution, but it looks like LaRoche will be ready to start the season.
The Nationals have been preparing for the loss of both Storen and Morse over the last week, believing each player won't have enough time to get themselves back into playing shape before the April 5 opener in Chicago. Both injured players, however, have made some significant progress in recent days.
Storen resumed throwing yesterday after taking time off to let anti-inflammatory medication work on his sore elbow and reported no problems. That said, the 24-year-old closer is going to need some time to rebuild his arm strength and pitch in several games before he's big-league ready.
That means Storen will probably remain in Viera when camp breaks Monday and then probably embark on a short rehab assignment with one of the Nationals' minor-league affiliates.
"I know that his arm is in pretty good shape right now," Johnson said. "But if it's a slow rehab, which I'm progressing to think it's going to be slow, he won't open the season. It could be hopefully sometime mid-April. Maybe I'm being overly hopeful. But I like to be positive and think positive things are going to happen with rehab, not necessarily taking the worst-case scenario."
Morse, meanwhile, threw from 60 to 90 feet today in Viera, then received the encouraging sonogram test. Johnson wouldn't go so far to say Morse will definitely start the season on the DL, but suggested there won't be enough time for him to get enough at-bats in time.
"He feels great," the manager said. "From talking to him, he's chomping. Now, whether that means if he can go swing hard, I'll just have to wait and see."
Though Storen and Morse are likely to be placed on the 15-day DL, each player's actual DL stint could be shorter. Teams are allowed to backdate the move to March 26 -- as long as those players do not appear in any games after that date -- which makes them eligible to return as early as April 10.
The fact LaRoche could play tomorrow against the Braves suggests the Nationals believe he'll be ready by Opening Day.
"We're running out of a little time, so I might go against what I usually do [and not give him one more day off] because of the lack of games left before the start of the season," Johnson said. "So I may get him in, get him a couple at-bats and then get him out of there."
Center fielder Rick Ankiel, meanwhile, is expected back in the lineup Friday after departing yesterday's game against the Marlins with quadriceps soreness. The Nationals expect Ankiel to be 100 percent healthy for Opening Day.