Johnson Is Doubling as Nats' Stalwart

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MIAMI, July 17 -- Washington Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson entered Monday's game against the Florida Marlins leading the National League in doubles with 33. Ask Johnson, though, about that status and his reply is both bland and serious: "I'm just glad I'm out there playing."

With all the turmoil around the Nationals these days, Johnson might be the team's most consistent force, a fact that's remarkable considering he has made at least one trip to the disabled list in each of the previous six seasons. An 0-for-4 game Monday night dropped his average to .297 and on-base percentage to .420, but he entered the night on pace for 75 RBI and 57 doubles. Manager Frank Robinson said the doubles are Johnson's most impressive attribute.

"That means he's hitting the ball hard and driving the ball," Robinson said. "Some people equate hitting the ball hard to homers. I equate it to doubles."

Johnson has never played more than 131 major league games, but is on pace to appear in 153.

LeCroy's Time Is Up

When the Nationals activated right-hander Tony Armas Jr. to start Monday's game against the Marlins, they created the roster spot by designating first baseman-catcher Matthew LeCroy for assignment. The club now has 10 days to trade LeCroy, who hit .239 with nine RBI in 39 games, after which time he could accept an assignment to the minors or become a free agent.

"I figured it was coming," LeCroy said by phone. "With the numbers they had, they needed a pitcher, and they told me when I signed here the opportunities [to play] wouldn't be many."

The Nationals likely will try to trade LeCroy to an American League team; he spent parts of six seasons with Minnesota. "He was a very good player for our clubhouse," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said.

Another move is pending Tuesday, when lefty Mike O'Connor is scheduled to be recalled to start against Florida. Utility player Damian Jackson, who has spasms in his esophagus, is expected to be placed on the disabled list to make room, club officials said Monday night.

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