The bruised heel of Washington Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson will be re-examined on Monday, when the team returns from a weekend series against the Brewers, an exam that team officials hope will finally help determine a date when Johnson will be able to return to the field.
Johnson, who has been out since suffering the bone bruise of his right heel on June 26, had an MRI exam this past Monday that confirmed there is no further damage, said Tim Abraham, the Nationals' head trainer. The exam in Washington will center largely on how much pain Johnson is in. Johnson is wearing a boot to protect the heel.
"He'll be reevaluated on Monday, and then we'll make a decision, one, whether he comes out of the boot, and then, two, how long" he's out, Abraham said Friday. "We really can't even guess until we see him out of the boot."
Abraham said that Johnson, who was hitting .320 when he went down, is in no danger of doing more damage to the heel by playing.
"It's just a matter of being tolerable," he said.
The Nationals, who are struggling to score runs in Johnson's absence, are getting itchy for his return. "We need Nick back," right fielder Jose Guillen said. "I'm not getting as many pitches to hit. We need him back to help the whole lineup."
Jose Vidro, Cristian Guzman and Marlon Byrd all arrived at Miller Park early Friday afternoon for extra batting practice. Vidro, who is still trying to regain his stroke after missing two months with an ankle injury, requested the session.
"He's jumping at the ball," hitting coach Tom McCraw said of Vidro, who entered Friday's game 7 for 29 (.241) since returning July 5 but went 3 for 5 in Friday's loss.
Of greater concern is Guzman, who returned from a 10-game absence Thursday, but is 0 for 7 in the two games since and is now down to .195. McCraw is still trying to get Guzman to concentrate on hitting exclusively fastballs, a strategy he began nearly a month ago.
"I may be doing it another month, I don't know," McCraw said. "But I'm going to continue, because I think that's how I'm going to get [him] out of it."