The Washington Times - February 21, 2012, 10:15AM

VIERA, Fla. — This was supposed to be the camp where Chris Marrero never checked into a locker inside of the Nationals’ minor league complex. It was supposed to be the season where Marrero, the Nationals’ first-round draft pick in 2006, served as the right-handed relief for Adam LaRoche at first base, a valuable bat for manager Davey Johnson. It was what the Nationals had in mind when they welcomed Marrero to the major leagues last year in late August.

But a torn hamstring that required surgery in November, suffered while he was playing in the Dominican Winter League, eliminated any shot at any of that for Marrero. 

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With his hands on the dugout railing at Space Coast Stadium Tuesday morning, Marrero stretched. He jogged up the stadium steps and back down them and stretched some more. He plans to hit off a tee a little, if the Nationals’ trainers will allow it, and do some light throwing. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, that’ll be mostly the extent of what he can do this spring.

“I’m feeling good,” Marrero said. “I’m doing all the rehab, doing everything I can, strengthening, working on the flexibility. I’m running the stairs, going to start jogging a little bit, maybe. Nothing too much.”

If there’s a specific timeline for his full recovery, Marrero isn’t aware of it. It “depends on how my body feels,” he said Tuesday, but the Nationals aren’t expecting him back to top shape until much before the All-Star break.  

Marrero suffered the injury stretching for a ball — which turned into doing a split — at first base in the Dominican Winter League. He was able to walk around, he said, and he didn’t know immediately that it’d require surgery but knew his body well enough to figure “something was wrong.”

He was smiling and appeared to be in a good mood in the clubhouse but it’ll be a long road of watching for the first baseman — who’s experienced this feeling before. Marrero broke his ankle in 2008 in a nasty collision at home plate, likely helping to delay his progression toward the major leagues.

“I just want to get healthy, get back,” he said. “I shouldn’t have any issues (with recurrence once I’m healed). According to the doctors and everybody, I should be fine.”