Storen DL-bound, Morse likely headed that way, as well

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - This doesn't come as much surprise, given where Drew Storen is in his rehab from elbow inflammation, but manager Davey Johnson said in today's pregame session with reporters that Storen will begin the season on the disabled list.

Johnson is hopeful that Storen will be able to return sometime in mid-April, but admitted that he's taking an optimistic view on how quickly the Nationals' closer will work through the elbow issues which have kept him out of action since March 7.

"Maybe I'm being overly hopeful. But I like to be positive and think positive things are going to happen in the rehab," Johnson said.

Storen played catch yesterday without any complications, but the Nationals will be cautious with how they proceed with the 24-year-old.

"This time of year, even if you take a week or two weeks longer, you miss less if you avoid the danger of any reoccurrence," Johnson said. "We're definitely going to make sure that everything he does, every mound session comes out OK."

As for Michael Morse, the Nats left fielder will throw today from 60-90 feet and will then have a sonogram on his strained lat. If the test shows that the lat has healed, Morse will be allowed to hit off a tee and resume baseball activities.

"Hopefully he'll get the OK, because he feels great," Johnson said. "When he can go swing hard, I'll just have to wait and see."

The Nats will wait until after the sonogram to determine whether Morse will definitely need to start the season on the DL, but it sure looks like that's the direction things are headed. That decision, Johnson said, will likely be made before the end of the week.

If the Nats put Morse on the DL to begin the season, they could backdate it to March 26, meaning the left fielder could be eligible to return to action as early as April 10.

"I can live with that," Johnson said.

Johnson said that he hopes both Morse and Storen will be able to go north with the team when camp breaks, but more than likely, they'll remain in Viera to rehab their respective injuries and then would go on a rehab assignment before making their debut with the major league club.

Meanwhile, center fielder Rick Ankiel, who was pulled four innings into yesterday's game against the Marlins because his injured quad was tightening up, will be given the next couple days off. Ankiel has told Nats officials he feels like he's real close to shaking the quad injury, which has lingered for a few weeks now.

"I'm looking at him probably coming back to games Friday," Johnson said.

Adding to the Nats' list of walking wounded (and man, is that list every growing quickly), Mark DeRosa is having some cramps in his calf, and he didn't make today's trip to Port St. Lucie.

DeRosa feels the cramping is minor and he should be able to return soon.

There is one bit of good news in all of this: Adam LaRoche will run the bases in a minor league game today, and if all goes well, Johnson hopes to get the veteran first baseman in a Grapefruit League game as early as tomorrow.

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