Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said injured first baseman Nick Johnson had the protective boot removed from his bruised right heel yesterday, but it will likely be the end of the week before the club knows when Johnson might return.

"He's feeling a lot better, which is a good sign," Bowden said. "He wasn't quite as tender as he has been. Of course, when you're in the boot, you're not pounding on it, so you've got some time to rest."

Johnson rode a stationary bike yesterday, and will throw and run today, Bowden said. He will go on a rehabilitation assignment before he plays for the major league club, so his return is still likely at least two weeks away.

"It feels better," Johnson said after a 5-4 loss to Colorado. "We'll see how it is tomorrow."

Backing Guzman

Nationals Manager Frank Robinson decided to stick with shortstop Cristian Guzman, a decision he said was made for the long haul.

"I have to try to get this guy whole for the rest of the year," Robinson said. "To talk about, now, taking him out of the lineup for a few days or a week or whatever -- what damage might that do to him for the rest of the year?"

Bowden, too, is aware of the problem. Guzman went 0 for 3 with a walk last night. He also bunted into a double play and failed to get a key bunt down in the eighth. He is hitting .190.

"We have to solve Guzman," Bowden said. "Solving him isn't going to be trading him. It isn't going to be sending him out. Solving him means we got to get his bat going somehow. Somehow."

Robinson said he could change his mind.

"I'm trying to figure out what it is that's missing between now and last year," he said. Guzman hit .274 with the Minnesota Twins in 2004.

Trade Talk

The Nationals continue to ask the Devil Rays about a deal that might include Tampa closer Danys Baez, but a source said the Nationals would also like to acquire infielder Julio Lugo, who is hitting .293 as the everyday shortstop.