Nats won't rush Morse, LaRoche back for opening day

VIERA, Fla. - We're under way here at Space Coast Stadium, as John Lannan takes the mound to face the Braves.

If you've got TV access at the office or happen to be hanging at home, you can catch today's game live on MASN.

Lannan is now through two innings, having allowed two hits but no runs. We're scoreless entering the bottom of the second.

Despite recent injuries to both left fielder Michael Morse and first baseman Adam LaRoche, the Nationals have said all along that they're not concerned about either guy being healthy and ready to start the season.

Today marked the first time manager Davey Johnson hinted that opening day might not be in the cards for either Morse or LaRoche.

Morse, who has been battling a lat strain, and LaRoche, who is dealing with a bone bruise and some cartilage issues in his foot, are both in the middle of a week completely away from baseball activities. The Nats have targeted Sunday as the date that both guys will be allowed to take part in drills and swing the bat, but the team is going to take things very carefully with its two middle-of-the-order hitters.

"We're going to be ultra-cautious," Johnson said. "If the doctors feel that if we don't baby them, it could be something that lingers, I'm going to monitor real closely. I'm not going to push them into getting ready for opening day if they think that will set-back (either) of them."

The goal, obviously, is to nip these injuries in the bud. The Nats would love Morse and LaRoche in the lineup April 5 against the Cubs, but their main concern is making sure either guy doesn't need to miss a chunk of the regular season due to a lingering ailment.

Johnson says Morse is getting close to returning, but the training staff will continue to "sit on him" to make sure he doesn't rush back too soon.

I'd think that sitting on him might only worsen the problem, but what do I know?

As for Drew Storen, I talked to the Nats closer today, and he says he's feeling much better after battling a case of strep throat the last handful of days.

Storen also had been dealing with some tightness in his bicep and tricep prior to the strep throat, but he says he's past those issues. He played catch today, and feels fully confident that he'll get enough work in over the next two-plus weeks in order to be ready to go for the start of the season.

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