The Nationals' two biggest roster additions this summer might not come via a blockbuster move at the July 31 trade deadline but rather the pending return of two key players from the disabled list: Jayson Werth and Drew Storen.
Each recovering player is moving closer to a return from the DL. Storen could be activated in time to make his season debut tomorrow afternoon; at the same time Werth could be beginning a minor-league rehab assignment.
Storen sounds ready to face big-league hitters after a dominant, one-inning performance Tuesday night with Class A Potomac. That was his sixth rehab appearance and his most effective (he struck out two of the three Lynchburg batters he faced).
"I feel confident out there and I feel comfortable," he said. "I think that's the main thing. That's what you try to get in spring training. I treated these rehab appearances like they were spring training, and I'm really happy with where I'm at."
Storen, who had surgery in April to remove a bone spur in his elbow, hasn't pitched on back-to-back days yet. But he noted he didn't do that in previous spring trainings and feels confident he'll be able to to perform when called upon now.
"It's one of those things were adrenaline takes over," he said. "I feel physically strong enough to do it. And I've done it before. I feel like I can come back and do it now."
Werth, meanwhile, took a major step forward today when he took a full round of batting practice for the first time since breaking his left wrist on May 6. The veteran outfielder didn't show any rust at all, at one point driving seven consecutive pitches over the fence in either left or center field.
"I was really pleasantly surprised," manager Davey Johnson said. "I didn't think he'd be hitting for another week, and he didn't seem like he felt any discomfort."
Things went so well for Werth that he requested to immediately begin a minor-league rehab assignment tomorrow, and the Nationals might oblige.
"After I saw him hit, I don't see any reason to think differently," Johnson said.
Werth will probably spend considerable time on his rehab assignment, perhaps more than two weeks, as he tries to get his timing down and get his body into game shape. The Nationals still expect him to come off the DL sometime during the first week of August.
"He pretty much knows his body better than anybody," Johnson said. "He knows what he needs to do to come back, and he knows where we're at in a pennant race. He doesn't want to be half-stepping. It'll be entirely up to him and how he's feeling."