Will The Washington Nationals' Michael Morse Be Ready For Opening Day?

March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse (38) before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman wrote Sunday night, in an article entitled, "Injury to Michael Morse more serious than first believed, could miss opener", that 30-year-old Nats' outfielder and 2011 team MVP Michael Morse, "... is in jeopardy of missing Opening Day with a lat injury that has proved more serious than initially believed." The CBSSports.com writer refers to a MASNSports.com article on Morse having an MRI, which said that the exam, "revealed no structural damage," but as Mr. Heyman writes, "... the injury has been slow to heal, which is why the MRI was ordered in the first place." The last MRI Morse had was reportedly last weekend.

Since then, however, it was revealed that Morse, who'd previously had a cortisone shot, had also had a platelet-rich plasma injection as they sought to find ways of speeding up the recovery process. As of Friday the Nationals were sounding more optimistic about the outfielder being available, as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained to the Washington Times' Amanda Comak, by, "... Opening Day and if not Opening Day, soon thereafter."

While Davey Johnson told reporters last Thursday that Morse's, "status for Opening Day is in question," when he spoke to reporters this morning, as recounted by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in an article entitled, "With Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche uncertain, Davey Johnson considering all options", the Nats' manager said, "'I have a feeling [Morse] could be close. Two or three days, I’d have said definite, he’s going to start the season on the DL. At this point, I’m not so sure.'" When the Nats' general manager appeared on 106.7 the FAN's broadcast of the Nats/Mets game on Sunday afternoon he told Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler that Morse, "... has had that lat muscle flare up on him before. He's been resting now for 12 days. We feel that once he starts baseball activities he can ramp up relatively quickly."

Rizzo reiterated though, that in dealing with all the injuries that are currently affecting the team, including Morse's, "... we're going to be ultra-cautious. There's no sense [in] rushing a guy back just to make the Spring Training Opening Day roster and then have him have a setback and miss a bulk of games." The plan for Morse, as explained to reporters earlier this week, was to have the hard-hitting outfielder start throwing this Wednesday before getting at bats in minor league games.

As both the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore and CBSSports.com's Mr. Heyman pointed out Sunday, however, the way recovering players like Morse and Adam LaRoche are used in the last week plus of Spring Training could be influenced by the rules for "backdating" DL stints at the start of the season. "The Nats will be cautious reinserting injured players into the lineup in coming days," Mr. Heyman suggests, "because it affects backdating they may want to do if the players start the year on the disabled list." As the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore wrote, "Teams are allowed to backdate disabled stints that begin on Opening Day to March 26,":

"In other words, if LaRoche and Morse do not play in any major league spring training games after Monday, they could begin the year on the disabled list but return by April 10. At that point, they would have missed only four games."

"If a guy is close to being ready, a day or two from being ready on Opening Day with days off after Opening Day," Mike Rizzo explained to 106.7 the FAN's Mr.'s Slowes and Jageler in discussing how the rules for the disabled list might affect the decision-making process, "You could kind of play a little short for a day or so, or just roll the dice and put the guy on the disabled list, let him get really healthy until the 10th and attack it in that way."

Does that sound like the more likely scenario for Morse considering they have him scheduled to get minor league at bats later this week rather than working him into the last few Grapefruit League games? As much as Morse might want to be back for Opening Day on April 5th, would he be better off taking the extra five days, missing four games and making sure he's 100% before he starts his 2012 campaign?

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