Wrist Might Keep Johnson Out For Remainder of the Season

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blessed with ability to hit but cursed with inability to heal, Washington Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson might miss the rest of the season while recovering from -- or at least trying to recover from -- a wrist injury.

Johnson today will undergo a diagnostic arthroscopy, the latest attempt to aid a comeback that, for now, has included only setbacks. Johnson received the news after a visit yesterday with Richard Berger, a hand and wrist specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Nationals team orthopedist Ben Shaffer also will fly in to be with Johnson today.

Berger recommended the arthroscopy to evaluate ligaments in Johnson's wrist, injured in a game May 13 against the New York Mets.

General Manager Jim Bowden said Johnson, 29, "might be out for the year."

"We'll know more tomorrow," he added. "They're going to go in and look and see what it is."

Since tearing the tendon sheath in his right wrist, Johnson has endured a series of frustrations. He was supposed to be out, initially, four to six weeks. But hope for his return slowly unraveled. First, he needed to wear a cast for two weeks. Then, doctors determined he needed it for two more weeks. Then, Johnson realized a month of immobilization hadn't eased the soreness. He headed to the Mayo Clinic hoping to learn why his injury couldn't heal as predicted.

"It's too early to know" what's next, Johnson said. "We'll go in and see what he sees tomorrow. But yeah, any time you get operated on it's a tough thing."

At the time of his injury, Johnson, Washington's regular cleanup hitter, had been batting .220 with five home runs and a .415 on-base percentage. But even then, he had a reputation as a habitual disabled list resident. Johnson had missed all of 2007 with a right leg fracture. In his pro career, he'd missed time for injuries to his heel, his cheekbone, his back and both hands.

Johnson's latest injury shares similarities with a partial tear of the sheath suffered May 31 by David Ortiz. Their paths to recovery, though, differ drastically. The Boston Red Sox slugger wore a cast for more then two weeks, then had it replaced by a removable splint. The team is hopeful that Ortiz can begin swinging again later this week.

Without Johnson in the lineup, Washington has used Dmitri Young as its regular first baseman and No. 4 hitter. If Johnson misses the rest of the season, he will have appeared in just 38 games over the last two seasons. Only once in his career has he managed a season with 500 at-bats.

Lannan 'Fine'

John Lannan, struck in the right palm by a line drive Sunday, will be able to make his next start, the team confirmed yesterday. A CT scan indicated no serious injuries; Lannan simply will use ice and heat to treat a soft-tissue contusion.

"Everything is fine," Lannan said. "Just a little sore."

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