With the Nationals desperate for offense, good news might finally come tonight with the return of first baseman Nick Johnson, who has been out almost a month with a deep bone bruise in his right foot.

Johnson, who has been on a rehabilitation assignment with the club's Class AAA team in New Orleans, was expected to fly to Atlanta today after New Orleans's game with Las Vegas, Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said.

As long as Johnson experienced no problems in the game last night he could be activated today for the first game of Washington's important three-game series with the Braves.

Johnson had been a vital part of the Nationals' lineup, hitting .320 with 8 home runs and 42 RBI in 74 games before the injury.

Less likely to play is outfielder Jose Guillen, who was hit on the wrist with a pitch on Sunday. Guillen has a bone contusion and Bowden said he is doubtful for tonight's game.

W. Cordero Released

Less than a week after the Nationals designated Wil Cordero for assignment they decided there was no trade market for him and released him.

Cordero, who had played well in two runs with the franchise in Montreal, hit just .118 with two RBI in 29 games and was 0 for 14 as a pinch hitter and 0 for 18 with runners in scoring position.

He was designated for assignment last week to make room for Kenny Kelly.

"At the end of the day you have to make decisions with your head and not your heart," General Manager Jim Bowden said last week after deciding that Cordero would no longer be a part of the team.

Nick Johnson has been sidelined for almost a month with a deep bone bruise in his foot.