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Michael Morse homered during last night's rehab game in Bowie.
Manager Davey Johnson described the one-day trip to New York as strictly for treatment purposes and said the lat tear that sidelined Morse for much of March has completely healed. The club still anticipates to have its cleanup hitter back in the lineup as soon as Tuesday, the first day he's eligible to come off the disabled list.
"He wasn't going to play today, so he's taking the time to go to New York and see this doctor guru [Derek] Jeter and [Alex] Rodriguez and [Jayson] Werth and everybody goes to see," Johnson said before today's game against the Cubs. "Just knowing he was going to have the day off, he just went up there. New York's not that far from D.C. Get a little treatment."
Morse is expected to resume his rehab assignment with Harrisburg tomorrow at Bowie, hoping to pick up where he left off last night when he homered and doubled.
Johnson did say Morse "felt just a little bit" in the injured area when throwing. "I'm sure he tried to throw too much and felt a little bit there, but nothing wrong with swinging," the manager said.
Center fielder Rick Ankiel, also on a rehab assignment with Harrisburg, also homered during last night's game. Ankiel is expected to be activated once he becomes eligible April 14.
The anticipated return of both regulars will force the Nationals to make some difficult roster decisions. Two players from the Opening Day squad will have to be dropped. Candidates include outfielders Roger Bernadina and Brett Carroll, infielder Steve Lombardozzi and first baseman Chad Tracy. Of that group, only Lombardozzi has an option left and can be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers.
Johnson said he has a good idea already which players will go, though he wouldn't reveal that yet.
"Things change," the manager said. "I'm prepared to make it, when and if they come back. There's a lot of things that have to happen between now and the 10th and 14th."
One player who doesn't appear to be in any danger of losing his job is Xavier Nady, the veteran outfielder who was unemployed in mid-March but then signed a minor-league contract and surprisingly made the Opening Day roster.
Johnson said today he'll likely start Nady in right field against left-handed pitchers, with Werth sliding over to center field. That's a departure from his originally stated plan to use Carroll in that platoon role.