(Paul Sancya/AP)

LaRoche’s participation Thursday is not definite, but the Nationals’ willingness to play him shows their confidence he will be ready opening day. Today is the final day to which teams can backdate season-opening stints on the disabled list. So, the Nationals would not risk playing LaRoche – and extending a potential stay on the DL – if they did not believe he’d start the year healthy.

Michael Morse’s plans have remained the same, with his first throwing in roughly two weeks scheduled for tomorrow. Morse seems likely to begin the year on the disabled list, but he gave Manager Davey Johnson a hint today that the strained lat in his right side, which has sidelined since March 12, is feeling better.

As Johnson walked out of the Nationals’ complex in Viera, he passed Morse coming from the parking lot, holding two bats in his hand. “Don’t tell them,” Morse said, “But I’m feeling pretty good.”

“Here he comes walking in from the parking lot with his bats,” Johnson said. “I know he stopped in the cages. What he’s doing with bats in the parking lot, I hope he was coming from his car. But the grin on his face made me think he might have been in there and gone back to the cages.”

Also back in Viera, the Nationals plan to have Drew Storen play catch for the first time in a week. Storen last played catch Wednesday, but felt soreness in his elbow joint. He flew to Washington for an MRI the next day, and the test revealed inflammation but no structural damage to his ulnar collateral ligament.

The Nationals have not ruled out Storen for opening day, but with less than 10 for Storen to rebuild his arm strength, it seems unlikely he will begin the season with the Nationals. In his absence, Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge would close games.