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Michael Morse has appeared in only three games this spring, all as DH.
Manager Davey Johnson said this morning it's not yet known when Morse will be ready to play but suggested his chances of being in the lineup by April 5 are less than good.
"He's probably more of a candidate to not open the season," Johnson said before the Nationals' exhibition game against the Cardinals.
Johnson also said he believes Morse recently received platelet-rich plasma treatment, a relatively new procedure also referred to as "blood spinning," in which blood plasma is removed from the body, injected with extra platelets to help the body heal faster and then re-injected into the patient. Yankees star Alex Rodriguez underwent the procedure last winter in Europe, and Orioles pitcher Zach Britton recently had it as well.
Despite some initial questions about the validity of the treatment and whether it could be considered performance enhancing, the World Anti-Doping Agency last year removed it from its list of banned drugs and treatments.
"It just gets in there and helps the healing," Johnson said. "That's kind of a new science, as far as I know."
Morse has appeared in only three games this spring, none since March 13, serving as designated hitter in all of them. He's yet to play in the field, and he's currently not cleared to perform any baseball activities.
That said, Morse insists his right shoulder and back feel fine and he's just waiting to receive the green light to resume play.
"The fact he feels fine, the fact that he doesn't feel the discomfort, that's good," Johnson said. "I always like to know how the player feels. That's a good sign."
Johnson referred to Morse's injury as a "small tear," which technically is the same as a strain. Morse received a cortisone shot earlier in the month before returning to DH in back-to-back games March 12-13.
If Morse is unable to open the season, Johnson said Mark DeRosa and perhaps Steve Lombardozzi are likely to receive playing time in left field. Morse's spot on the 25-man roster could be filled by one of several outfielders trying to make the club this spring: Roger Bernadina, Brett Carroll and Jason Michaels.
Xavier Nady, signed to a minor-league contract last week, could be an option at some point but the veteran outfielder/first baseman was just due to play in his first minor-league game today.
Though they have bodies in-house to replace Morse on the roster, the Nationals will have a difficult time replacing the slugger's production. He led the club last season with a .303 average, 31 homers and 95 RBI.
"It's my cleanup hitter," Johnson said. "But we're not going to push that to where we exacerbate it. This just gives an opportunity to somebody else. ... I think [GM] Mike Rizzo did an outstanding job with the acquisitions and the winter he had. I have a lot of good options, and everybody has to be able to sustain injuries. We're not the only ones who have to look at it."
Meanwhile, Johnson said closer Drew Storen experienced some "small discomfort" while playing catch yesterday and will receive further tests. Storen missed time earlier this spring with soreness in his biceps and triceps.
First baseman Adam LaRoche (bone bruise in heel) and right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring strain) also are currently sidelined.
"We're going to be overly cautious on everybody, because it's spring training," Johnson said. "I think in all those guys, I think they're close as far as timing-wise, conditioning-wise, to play. But we just can't take a chance on pushing anybody this time of year."