Washington Nationals: Michael Morse Injury Makes Him Doubtful for Opener

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterMarch 22, 2012

Michael Morse slugged 31 home runs with 95 RBI for the Washington Nationals in 2011.
Michael Morse slugged 31 home runs with 95 RBI for the Washington Nationals in 2011.Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Michael Morse was one of the primary forces behind the Washington Nationals' turnaround to an 80-81 record and third-place finish in the NL East last season. Morse put together a breakout year, slugging 31 home runs with 95 RBI while compiling an OPS of .910. No one else on the roster came anywhere close to those numbers.

If the Nats are to contend for a postseason spot this year, they'll need a similar level of performance from Morse again—especially since general manager Mike Rizzo wasn't able to land the big bat he and Nats fans were hoping to add to the lineup. 

But with two weeks to go before the regular season begins, Morse's status for the Nationals' opener versus the Chicago Cubs is looking increasingly doubtful; according to Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider, manager Davey Johnson said as much to beat writers Thursday morning.

Morse is suffering from a strained lat muscle on his right side. According to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, he's been dealing with the injury since at least March 6, when he told the team training staff about the issue. Morse eventually received a cortisone shot and appeared in two games before resting the injury.

Overall, he's played in only three games for the Nationals this spring, appearing each time as the designated hitter. 

To treat the injury, Morse received an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP). That's become kind of the in-vogue treatment for muscle injuries, as described by Kilgore:

The platelet-rich plasma therapy is a relatively new treatment for muscle sprains and strains. Doctors remove about 30 milliliters of the patient’s blood and spin the blood in a machine, which separates out the platelet-rich plasma from the blood. The doctors then inject the plasma into the affected muscle in order, in theory, to promote tissue recovery.

Other baseball players who have received the treatment in recent years include Alex Rodriguez, Brandon Inge and Oliver Perez. Injured Baltimore Orioles pitcher Zach Britton just took a PRP injection in his injured shoulder, as reported by the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly. In other sports, Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal have undergone the treatment, as well. 

Morse insists he feels fine and is ready to play, but the Nationals are being understandably cautious in trying to prevent further injury. Morse would benefit from some at-bats and innings in left field to prepare for the regular season, of course. But if it's the difference between being hurt or healthy once games start counting, the Nats would surely take a healthy Morse. 

In the meantime, Johnson is mulling over his replacement options in left field. Mark DeRosa looks like the leading candidate to fill in. The Nats also want to give second baseman Steve Lombardozzi a shot in the outfield, hoping he can make the team as a super-utility type of player. He's been one of the team's best hitters this spring, batting .306 (11-for-36).