Top prospect out for season after leg injury

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The injury woes that have plagued the Washington Nationals‘ top position players this season have now hit the organization’s top minor league prospect.

Class A Potomac first baseman Chris Marrero will miss the rest of the season with a broken right fibula, general manager Jim Bowden confirmed Saturday. Marrero, rated by Baseball America last winter as the Nationals’ top prospect, hurt himself sliding into home plate Wednesday and will need surgery to repair both the broken leg and damaged ligaments in his ankle.

“It’s a setback, there’s no question about it,” Bowden said before Washington’s game against the Texas Rangers. “But it’s part of the game. We’ll heal him up and get him back up starting next year.”

Marrero, the club’s first-round pick in the 2006 draft, had gotten off to a slow start this season at Potomac but had improved in recent weeks. Over his last 14 games, the 19-year-old hit .352, raising his season average to .250 to go along with 11 homers and 38 RBI.

Though the organization is hopeful the injury won’t derail Marrero’s overall development, his path to the majors certainly will be prolonged. Before the injury, the Nationals looked at the 6-foot-3 first baseman possibly making his big league debut in late 2009. That would appear to be a long shot now.

“When you have a setback like this, it obviously affects your timetable to the big leagues,” Bowden said. “But long run, he’ll be fine. We’ll get him healthy. And luckily, if you’re going to have a broken leg somewhere, first base is probably the best place for it to happen.”

Tuneup for Perez

Left-hander Odalis Perez made a rehab start for Potomac on Saturday night. He allowed one run and three hits in four innings while striking out five and walking none.

Out since June 3 with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, Perez should be able to return to the Nationals’ rotation. He’s eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday and is expected to start against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

Injury updates

Austin Kearns took batting practice on the field Saturday afternoon for the first time since having surgery to remove bone fragments from his right elbow and appears close to a rehab assignment.

Bowden said the outfielder, on the DL since May 22, could begin a rehab assignment by Thursday. He then could be reinstated in time for the Nationals’ series at Cincinnati that begins July 3.

The prognosis isn’t as good for first baseman Nick Johnson, who continues to experience soreness in his injured right wrist and will be sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to receive another opinion. Johnson has been out since May 15 with a torn tendon sheath and was hoping to be back by now.

“We’re going to get another opinion, just to make sure there’s nothing else we can do at this point,” Bowden said. “That’s been discouraging that he’s not feeling any better after all this time.”

Extra bases

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