The Washington Nationals had taken the slow approach with Michael Morse's rehabilitation from a strained right lat muscle, and they felt optimistic the final step would come Monday night. Nine full innings in left field at Single-A Hagerstown would prepare Morse for his return Thursday in the home opener at Nationals Park.
"He couldn't do that," manager Davey Johnson said. "That really distresses me."
Morse took himself out of his rehab appearance Monday night after seven innings. He could not throw the ball from left field to shortstop, and it worsened as the game went on. Nationals team doctors will re-examine Morse and further test the lat Morse first strained March 6. Morse will not play Thursday, as the Nationals had hoped. Johnson said the doctors are "concerned." When Morse returns, after more than a month of diagnoses and setbacks, they still don't know.
"I wish I knew," Johnson said. "I didn't think it was even that serious. I was kind of looking forward to penciling him into the lineup on Thursday. That's not going to happen. That concerns me."
When Morse first injured his lat this spring, he insisted he wasn't worried about it. General manager Mike Rizzo said, "It'll be a day." But it has turned into a monthlong search for answers that has included a platelet-rich plasma injection and a sonogram to check for further tearing. The extended recovery has left the Nationals, having scored three runs or less in three of their first four games, without their cleanup hitter and best slugger.
"I thought the initial reports we got on him was that it was healed," Johnson said.
The strain still does not affect Morse at the plate. Before he left the game Monday night, Morse had gone 5-for-12 with a homer and a double in his rehab.
On Saturday, Morse took a break from his rehab assignment and traveled to New York to receive treatment from a specialist. Johnson called the visit "a personal decison" not mandated by the team.
The Nationals have yet to determine Morse's course from here on out, waiting for the results from his tests today in Washington.
On March 28, Nationals doctors used a sonogram to confirm the small tear in Morse's lat had healed. If something deeper has gone wrong, would surgery come next?
"That's a tough question," Johnson said. "I really don't know."