Closer Drew Storen expects the Nationals to be in the playoffs. (Hunter Martin/GETTY IMAGES)

Doctors examined the ulnar collateral ligament – the ligament that necessitates Tommy John surgery if torn – in Storen’s right elbow after he had experienced soreness in his biceps and triceps area. The test revealed Storen’s UCL is “completely fine,” he said.

“There was nothing extremely abnormal, the way I felt,” Storen said. “It was lingering around more than usual. I just wanted to make sure and do it the right way.”

Storen had no grave concerns about his arm, “but it’s always in the back of your head,” he said. “I knew that I felt like, talking to other guys who had elbow stuff, it wasn’t the same. It was a matter of covering the bases so you know going into it, instead of just guessing around.”

Storen will rest for a couple more days and then “get it going,” he said. Storen has plan for building strength in his arm after not pitching in almost three weeks.

Storen sounded as if he will not rush back simply to pitch by opening day for two reasons. Unlike last season, Storen entered spring training as the clear-cut closer after he saved 43 games last season, and he feels secure with his place on the team. With enhanced expectations for the Nationals, Storen also wants to ensure he will last the entire regular season, and then some.

“We expect to be playing in the playoffs,” Storen said. “What happens at the end of the year is more important than right now. I think that’s kind of nice, to be able to look at the big picture. You don’t want to cut a corner now and have it come back to bite you when it really matters.

“This year is a lot different than others. If it takes taking my time right now, I’m going to do that so I’m prepared at the end of the year.”

The Nationals have a deep bullpen, bolstered by the late signing of veteran reliever Brad Lidge. The Nationals did not sign Lidge to compete with Storen, but if Storen has to miss any time while building his arm strength, the Nationals have, in Lidge, a former closer who has saved 223 games in his career.

“At the beginning, if I miss a few, we’ll be fine,” Storen said.

>> A day after Manager Davey Johnson said Michael Morse may not be able to play opening day after undergoing a platelet-rich plasma injection, Morse was mum. He said the Nationals instructed him not to answer any medical questions, leaving them instead to team officials. Asked about his opening day status, Morse said, “I don’t think about it.”