Just a few days ago there seemed to be a general optimism around the Washington Nationals that the injuries suffered by both left fielder Michael Morse and closer Drew Storen were not serious enough that either player would be in jeopardy of missing Opening Day. It seems things have changed.
Manager Davey Johnson provided updates, according to Mark Zuckerman, on a number of the teams ailing players, including the aforementioned pair that is expected to be so vital to this team’s chances in 2012. Storen, as you may recall, started to experience some inflammation around his elbow, which prompted the team to shut him down and conduct an MRI examination. Results came back clean, showing just the inflammation and zero structural damage. He has been unable to throw since the exam, however, due to the time needed in order to allow the inflammation to subside with treatment. In all likelihood, he’s going to need some time in order to regain strength in his arm which is going to necessitate a stint on the DL.
In recent days, veteran free agent signing Brad Lidge has stated with confidence that he’s ready to step into the closer’s role while Storen is out of action, if that’s what Johnson and the team ask of him. Lidge does have 223 career saves under his belt, between Houston and Philadelphia. You can add 18 more to that total from his postseason experience, including three trips to the World Series. He’s easily the most qualified candidate to step into the role temporarily, though it won’t be a surprise to see Tyler Clippard or Henry Rodriguez worked into a few of those situations.
As for Morse, he was finally cleared to begin resuming baseball activities late this afternoon, a huge step in the right direction considering he’s appeared in only three Spring Training games, none in the field, due to a lat strain. His availability for Opening Day remains in the air, as there is a chance he’s able to be in the lineup batting cleanup. But those chances are slim. He hasn’t been able to throw or swing over the past week or so and he also hasn’t had much of an opportunity to face live pitching, meaning they’ll need to get him at bats to get him into game shape. In the interim, the team gets an extra week or two in order to evaluate some of their outfield/bench options.
I believe that teams can now place players on the DL retroactive to this past Saturday, March 24th, at the earliest. Doing so would mean a player could be activated from the DL as early as April 8th. Storen and Morse may not quite be ready by that date, but I wouldn’t expect either to be out much longer beyond it.
In other injury and roster updates …
Adam LaRoche is expected back in the lineup for tomorrow’s game, suggesting he’ll be ready for Opening Day. He’s been dealing with a sore foot. The same can be said for Rick Ankiel, who left yesterday’s game with a sore quadriceps.
Roger Bernadina, meanwhile, will not be with the team over the next two days. He’s been permitted to return to Curacao to attend a funeral for his father who passed away earlier this week. He’s expected back on Saturday. The kid had a rough winter as it would seem he was close to Greg Halman, the Seattle Mariners outfielder who was killed in his native Netherlands in November.