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Johnson Seems Ready to Test Leg in Games

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 25, 2008

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 24 -- Although he has yet to make out his lineup for Wednesday night's Grapefruit League opener against the Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta said Sunday he expects Nick Johnson to play, an encouraging sign that the Nationals' veteran first baseman has recovered from the broken femur that cost him last season.

Another encouraging sign: When told of Acta's comments, Johnson shrugged and said, "I don't know why I wouldn't."

The game will mark Johnson's first game action since Sept. 23, 2006, when he broke his right femur in an outfield collision. Team officials initially sounded confident Johnson could be ready by last Opening Day, before a series of setbacks.

He has been under no limitations in camp, and has tested the leg in nearly every imaginable way -- with the exception of sliding. But Johnson said he wouldn't hesitate to slide in a game.

"It's not going to affect anything," he said. "Knowing myself, when I get on the field, if the situation arises I'll just get down and [slide]. It won't matter how it feels [afterwards]. A little soreness isn't going to stop me."

The Nationals are waiting to evaluate Johnson's performance this spring before making a decision on their first base situation, where Johnson and veteran Dmitri Young are both seeking the starting job.

Flores Finally Arrives

Catcher Jesus Flores arrived in Viera late Saturday, after resolving visa issues in his native Venezuela, and participated in Sunday's workout. Flores said the team was late in sending him the form he needed to secure his work visa.

"I wanted to get here before the camp started, but I [had to] wait for the [form]," he said. "And finally it got there."

The team responded in a statement that it applied for visa petitions for all its players at the same time as every other year, in early December, and that the process took longer than normal.

The Nationals project Flores, who spent all 2007 in the majors as a Rule 5 pick, to play at Class AA Harrisburg this season, although injury concerns regarding veterans Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada could change the equation.

Estrada (right elbow) has been limited in his throwing, and Lo Duca (left knee) has been unable to run, crouch or take batting practice. . . .

Right-hander John Patterson threw his first live batting practice Sunday -- the first time he had pitched to batters since last May 5, when he walked off the mound with an elbow injury that ultimately required surgery in September -- and said he was pleased with the results. . . .

Acta on left-hander Odalis Perez: "He's in very good physical shape, the best I've seen him in maybe 10 years."

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