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Young or Johnson Could Be Traded

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2008

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 15 -- Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden acknowledged Friday that the presence of two veteran, highly paid first basemen -- Dmitri Young and Nick Johnson -- on the roster this spring could force him to trade one of them, provided both remain healthy.

"They're both everyday players," Bowden said. "If they're both healthy, logically, it may be possible one of them has to be moved to make that work. It doesn't mean we're going to, but it's something we may have to look at."

Young, 34, is a two-time all-star who in 2007 turned a minor league contract with a spring training invitation from the Nationals into a productive season (.320 average, 13 homers, 74 RBI) that earned him National League comeback player of the year honors. During the season, he signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension through 2009.

Johnson, 29, batted .290 with 23 homers and a .428 on-base percentage in 2006, before breaking the femur in his right leg in a gruesome on-field collision that September, costing him the entire 2007 season. He has pronounced himself healthy, though he still must prove that on the field. He is in the second year of a three-year, $16.5 million contract that pays him $5.5 million in 2008 and 2009, with the last year becoming a player option in the event he is traded.

Young's age and past weight problems and Johnson's lengthy injury history would somewhat limit their trade value, although Johnson, once he proves himself healthy, would undoubtedly bring more in return.

Young is listed as the starting first baseman on the organizational depth chart on the wall of Bowden's office. "He has to be," Bowden said. "He was one of the top seven in the league in hitting [in 2007]. But that doesn't mean by Opening Day, Nick Johnson is not the starting first baseman, either. . . . It's going to be fun to watch that play out."

Hill Ready

Right-hander Shawn Hill, who is coming off surgeries to his left shoulder and right forearm in October, said Friday he is fully healthy and will be under no restrictions when pitchers begin throwing next week.

"I've been throwing since the middle of December," said Hill, who went 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts last season. "I'm feeling pretty good right now. I should be ready to go."

His only restriction, he said, could be when pitchers begin taking full batting practice later in the spring, as his surgically repaired (non-throwing) shoulder has not regained its full range of motion.

"For what I need it to do, it's perfectly fine," Hill said.

Hill also said he plans to experiment with a slider or "cut" fastball this spring as a secondary pitch to offset his trademark sinker. Currently, Hill's only secondary pitches are a curve and a change-up.

Who Has Advantage?

Bowden predicted the Nationals' new ballpark will slightly favor pitchers, though he acknowledged it will be impossible to tell until games are played there.

"There are a few times I've been there when the wind comes in from left field, swirls around a little and goes out to right-center. Is that going to happen when the season starts? I don't know. But I know it's going to be more hitter-friendly than RFK [Stadium]. I also know it's going to be a pitcher's park. It's certainly not a Philadelphia, Cincinnati or Wrigley Field bandbox."

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