The Washington Times - September 14, 2011, 07:29PM

NEW YORK — A few pre-game notes as the Nationals and Mets prepare for the battle for third place…

– Corey Brown’s season is officially over. The Nationals outfield call-up underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to clean out an infection in his knee and it was found to indeed be a staph infection, as feared. While it seems any serious danger has been averted with the operation, Brown will not be rejoining the team in the season’s final two weeks. Brown had just three major league at-bats, and was yet to tally a hit, when he was left behind Sunday when the team left for New York. 

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It’s not known how Brown’s right knee became infected but the Nationals’ medical staffed felt it could become a staph infection and felt it best for him to remain away from the rest of the team as it is highly contagious. Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday he doesn’t believe anyone else on the team is in danger of contracting the infection as Roger Bernadina (hand laceration) is the only one who had an open wound around the same time and his appears to be healing properly.

– Ryan Mattheus threw another bullpen session on Tuesday, his second since going on the disabled list Aug. 26 with right shoulder tightness. The session was a success, Mattheus said, admitting that as good as he felt Sunday when he threw his first one, Tuesday’s felt even better. The rookie reliever is expected to throw another bullpen session on Thursday in New York and then a simulated game against some Nationals hitters on Saturday in Washington.

If all continues to go well Mattheus will be activated before the Nationals play a doubleheader in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

– The Nationals spent much of the 2011 season searching for a leadoff hitter and Ian Desmond has finally thrived in that spot the last 26 games. He’s hit .294 with a .330 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage over that stretch. It’s a performance that has helped continue his very strong second half after an abysmal first half offensively. 

It’s also one that’s gone a long way toward Johnson feeling comfortable that Desmond could be the team’s leadoff hitter in 2012.

“I like him leading off,” Johnson said. “I know he feels real comfortable about it. I remember when I had a conversation with him about it, I was hitting him eighth and I hit him seventh and his on-base percentage was terrible but he was trying to do too much.

“I wanted to know what he thought and he said ‘I think I’d be a great leadoff hitter.’ I said ‘If you think that, go show me,’ and I put him in the leadoff spot. He’s shown me he can be more patient… I think the last month or so he’s shown the real Ian Desmond.”