Nats preparing for a welcome break (plus Tracy, Storen updates)

Davey Johnson isn't a big fan of team meetings.

He doesn't feel he needs to stand up in front of his squad like a football coach and deliver a pep talk.

But Johnson did walk around the Nationals clubhouse early this afternoon, talking to each player, giving out handshakes and wishing everyone well over the All-Star break.

"I just talked to all the players individually, congratulated them on their first half," Johnson said. "Want them to relax. No horse riding, no jet skiing, no crashes of any kind. Enjoy it, but take care of yourself. We've had enough injuries. Rest up mentally, come back and the fun begins the second half."

Where did the horse riding part of that come from? Not surprisingly, Johnson got that from a conversation he had with Adam LaRoche, the resident country boy on the Nationals' roster.

"I'm a little bit worried about LaRoche," Johnson said. "He said something about a horse. I said, 'Don't be getting on no horses.' "

The Nationals will enter the break with at least a 3 1/2 game lead in the National League East. They are currently 4 1/2 games up on the second-place Mets and have won eight of their last 11 games.

But Johnson doesn't think the break comes at a bad time and isn't worried about it possibly slowing down his red-hot team.

"Momentum is a mind thing," Johnson said. "Guys can all use this time to get over some little nagging injuries. (Ian) Desmond, (Danny) Espinosa's been beat up pretty good too. They've played a lot of innings. So I think it's more welcome than me worried about it, because physically and mentally, the break and relaxation will put us in a good frame of mind going to Miami (after the break).

"I think it's come at a perfect time. Guys are getting healthy coming off the DL, some other guys that have been playing a lot can use the time off. So I'm not worried about it. I welcome it."

Like his players, Johnson will use the break as a chance to relax, as well. He'll head home to Florida and spend time with his wife. He'll also get to play with his dog and a stray cat which his daughter gave to him 10 years ago.

"I get to have them in my lap all the time, so it'll be good for me, too, mentally," Johnson said. "Not so much physically. I'm already shot physically."

Speaking of physical updates, Chad Tracy will get another day of rest today after feeling some discomfort in his surgically repaired groin region during a rehab game with Single-A Potomac on Friday. The Nationals are hopeful he'll be able to resume his rehab stint soon.

Tracy said the setback isn't anything major, but he realized he might have just come back a bit too soon after having surgery to repair a right adductor strain.

Drew Storen threw around 20 pitches yesterday with Single-A Potomac, allowing two runs (one earned). He actually blew a lead for the P-Nats in the eighth inning, but ended up getting the win when Kevin Keyes hit a go-ahead homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Storen felt "good soreness" today, according to Johnson, and the righty said he was very pleased with the outing, despite the results. It's hard for Storen to separate the results from how he's feeling during and after he pitches, but he says he's aware that this is essentially his spring training and the numbers he puts up are meaningless.

The Nationals reliever will get two more outings with Potomac and said he could be ready to return to the big leagues on Friday when the Nats kick off the second-half.

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