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Morse could return for Nats' next homestand

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Morse could return for Nats' next homestand

Though he's been targeting a June 8 return for some time, injured left fielder Michael Morse believes he could actually rejoin the Nationals sooner than that, perhaps during their next homestand.

Morse, out since spring training with a torn right lat muscle, has begun swinging a bat and playing catch for the first time since he was shut down during the first week of April after experiencing a setback while on a rehab assignment with Class A Hagerstown.

The Nationals have targeted the June 8 date as a likely return because it would allow Morse to ease his way back by serving as designated hitter for interleague series in Boston and Toronto.

Morse, though, told manager Davey Johnson this week he believes he could be ready when the Nationals open a six-game homestand on June 1 against the Braves.

"That was my day June 8," Johnson said. "I threw that out there trying to give the trainers and the doctors a date that I wanted him back swinging, because he could DH against the American League clubs on the eighth. We'd been set for that for about three weeks, and he came to me and said: 'When you come off the road trip, I'll be ready.' But he's feeling his oats."

Before the Nationals let Morse return that soon, they'll have to be convinced his injury is completely healed -- at last check, doctors said the tear was 80 percent healed -- and see evidence of him both hitting and throwing in rehab games.

Morse intends to go to extended spring training in Viera, Fla., next week while the Nationals are on the road. If things progress well there, he could go play for one of their minor-league affiliates around Memorial Day.

"He looks strong," Johnson said. "I've been in the workout room when he's working out, and he's doing things that you can't do when you're hurt. He's lifting things and doing things. He's in good shape. I'm not worried about him running around the outfield, because he's been doing a lot of aerobics and stuff like that and his legs are in great shape. As big and strong as he is, the doctors tell him he can go, and they're expanding and letting him do pretty much everything right now. So I don't think it's going to take much time."

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Reports: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox, not Nationals

Reports: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox, not Nationals

The Nationals missed out on a major trade target when news broke this afternoon that the White Sox had traded ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox. 

The report comes from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. 

Washington had been the frontrunner to land Sale as recently as this morning. And as recently as 30 minutes ago, the Nationals vs. Red Sox contest seemed like it could go either way.

But apparently the Nats couldn't match Boston's offer of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech plus two minor leaguers, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network. 

Now, the dream rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Sale won't happen. 

The trade for Sale was so close, it could impact other potential deals for the Nationals. The team reportedly explored trading Gio Gonzalez to the Yankees if Sale indeed ended up in Washington. 

MORE NATIONALS: Report: Nats exploring trading Gio to Yankees

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MLB Hot Stove Rumors: Nationals exploring trading Gio Gonzalez to Yankees

MLB Hot Stove Rumors: Nationals exploring trading Gio Gonzalez to Yankees

Here's an interesting report for Nationals fans to keep an eye on: If Washington lands White Sox ace Chris Sale, they may trade left Gio Gonazlez to the Yankees. 

From Rich Mancuso of New York Sports Day:

A reliable National League source early this morning at the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings confirmed that the Washington Nationals are close to a deal with the New York Yankees that would send lefthander Gio Gonzalez to the Bronx. In return the Yankees would send the Nationals two minor league prospects and maybe another player.

Mancuso stipulates that the trade agreement, which is not yet official, would be contingent upon the Nationals acquiring Sale. 

Gonzalez, 31, is in the last year of his contact with Washington after arriving in 2012 from Oakland. He finished the 2016 season with an 11-11 record, 4.57 ERA and 171 strikeouts. 

UPDATE 1:34 p.m.: The Nationals lost on out Sale, who was instead traded to the Red Sox. 

MORE NATIONALS: Syndergaard already tired of Sale to Nationals hype