(Patrick Smith/GETTY IMAGES)

Morse has been sidelined all season with a strained lat muscle, but the Nationals’ projected cleanup hitter, a slugger who hit 31 homers last season, is nearing his season debut. In an extended spring training game today, Morse hit a home run center field, hit a single and flied out to right.

Morse played mostly designated hitter but he also threw “a lot,” Johnson said, and “the report after the game was his arm felt good throwing.” Morse also ran from first to third on a single, “so his legs are alright,” Johnson said.

While Morse’s first game offered promise, he will still play at least two more games in Viera before he begins his minor league at Potomac.

“The question is, how does Morse feel tomorrow after his first time out in more than a month?” Johnson said. “I’m not getting my hopes up.”

Earlier this week, Johnson said Morse would “for sure” return by June 8, when he could serve as the Nationals’ designated hitter in Boston during an interleague series. Morse make his season debut earlier, though.

Morse spent the first six weeks of the season in “shutdown mode,” but the strained muscle almost required major surgery to heal.