(Julio Cortez/AP)

Storen assumed he would not travel to Chicago with the Nationals as he builds arm strength following his bout with right elbow inflammation. That leaves two options: He will either return to Viera to rehab, or he will go an affiliate – perhaps Class A Potomac – to pitch in rehab games.

“I feel like I’m getting there,” Storen said. “Every day is a step in the right direction. I think today is really the true test of where I’m at. I think I’m getting there. It’s pretty amazing how every day gets so much better. It’s not a pain thing. It’s a strength thing.”

Storen considers his current plan as essentially a spring training re-do, building up his arm for the season. Manager Davey Johnson has said he hopes Storen could return by mid-April, which Storen also sees as possible.

“That seems about dead-on,” Storen said. “I’m in no rush. You’ve got to make sure to take your time. But that sounds about accurate. The thing with me, I try not to look ahead to that. You’ve got to take it a day at a time, as cliche as it is.”

Storen, Chien-Ming Wang, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel are the four Nats regulars who will begin the season on the disabled list. Johnson has said he cannot remember a spring training in which so many key players suffered injuries that shelved them for the start of a season.

“It’s better to start and have them miss the first week or two instead have them be out until July,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who suffered an early-season injury in 2011 that required surgery and cost him 60 games. “We got lucky on Drew and Mike. It could have been a lot worse. It’s going to be kind of a shot in the arm when he comes back.”

While they will surely miss those four, the Nationals believe they are far better equipped to handle the attrition than in years past. The Nationals will replace them, roughly, with Brad Lidge, John Lannan, Mark DeRosa and Roger Bernadina.

“We’re a lot deeper,” Zimmerman said. “DeRosa, [Chad] Tracy, [Xavier] Nady, those guys, they’ve been big-time players on big league teams before. Davey has said it all along. You’re starting guys are your best guys, but your goal is not have a big drop-off when you’re bench guys need to play. And I think for sure we have that.”

Morse took a full, impressive batting practice on Tuesday at Nationals Park. He is eligible to come off the disabled list April 10, and Johnson expects him back by the Nationals’ home opener April 12.

“He looks great,” Zimmerman said. “He’s healed. Now it’s just a matter of getting him in shape and not rushing him back. When you take this much time, you might as well take an extra five days and get him healthy, so we can have him for 150 games.”


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