Morse, Ankiel closing in on returns; Wang progressing

FLUSHING, N.Y. - While the news on Drew Storen's rehab from elbow tightness certainly isn't good, things appear to be improving for three other Nationals currently on the disabled list.

Michael Morse will play nine innings for low Single-A Hagerstown tonight, and if all goes well, he's scheduled to get a full nine innings in again tomorrow. The Nats power-hitting left fielder, who has been battling a strained lat, is eligible to come off the DL and rejoin the major league club tomorrow, but the team isn't planning on activating him until Wednesday or Thursday.

The more likely option is that Morse returns to the Nats on Thursday in D.C., when they return from their road trip.

"I don't see any sense in rushing him up here," manager Davey Johnson said. "I think it's going to get colder up here by Wednesday and I just as soon him not make the trip, stay there, get treatment and be ready to go on Thursday."

Center fielder Rick Ankiel will join Morse in Hagerstown, and will again play the field tonight. Ankiel, who is dealing with a quad injury and could return to the Nats as early as Saturday, also has been improving of late.

"He's been holding it back, about 80 percent," Johnson said. "He's going to probably gradually get up to about 100 percent, and hopefully he gets up to that by Wednesday so he can back off to be ready to join us."

Both Morse (3-for-8 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs) and Ankiel (3-for-9 with two home runs and three RBIs) hit the ball well while on the first leg of their rehab stint with Double-A Harrisburg.

Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who is battling a strained left hamstring, threw off a mound yesterday at extended spring training his latest step toward a return.

The Nats will continue to take things very cautiously with Wang, especially given their abundance of quality starting pitching.

"He had a good mound presence," Johnson said of Wang's mound session. "Threw the ball well, but he'll have to do that 2-3 more times before facing hitters."

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