- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2008

BALTIMORE — First baseman Dmitri Young returned to the Washington Nationals’ lineup last night and said he is completely pain-free and ready to be in the team’s lineup every day.

Young went 1-for-4 as a designated hitter in last night’s game against the Orioles and likely will play there in a number of the Nationals’ interleague games but expects to be in the field during all the National League games.

Young went on the disabled list April 8 with a sprained lower back and was about to receive a third opinion on the injury when team massage therapist Tatiana Tchamouroff worked on his hip flexor on May 1, enabling him to swing a bat for the first time in weeks and sending him to the team’s extended spring training facility in Viera, Fla.

Asked whether he was 100 percent, Young said, “If there’s such a thing as that, yes. If there’s not, I’m pretty [darn] close.”

The 34-year-old Young batted cleanup last night and will try to erase some of the productivity lost when Nick Johnson tore the tendon sheath in his right wrist against the Mets on Wednesday.

“He’s a guy that doesn’t go in slumps,” manager Manny Acta said. “He’s a natural hitter from both sides of the plate. We need some offense right now, and hopefully he can help us out.”

It’s the same situation as last season, when the Nationals signed Young to play first after Johnson broke his leg on Sept. 23, 2006, also against the Mets. Young was named National League comeback player of the year in 2007 before starting this season as Johnson’s backup.

Now, he’ll get a chance to excel in Johnson’s absence again.

“I’m just here ready to play,” Young said.

Johnson copes with injury

Two days after his injury — which extended his streak of seasons with time on the disabled list to eight — Johnson sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at Camden Yards with a wrap on his wrist and as positive an outlook as he could muster.

Johnson is expected to be out four to six weeks and said doctors haven’t raised the possibility of him needing surgery or missing any more time. He will be reevaluated in two weeks.

“It happens,” he said. “I wouldn’t think anything of it. Everything was feeling good. I’ll just keep moving forward. I can’t do anything about it.”

Kearns sits, works

Right fielder Austin Kearns didn’t start for the second time this season, getting some time to tinker with adjustments to his swing. Kearns, who is hitting .192 this season, was 1-for-16 in four games against the Mets.

“Right now, he’s getting his hands back a little bit too late. His trigger is a little bit too late,” Acta said. “Hitters only have so much time to read and react and realize what to do with the pitch.”

Kearns misread a line drive by Ryan Church that brought in two runs in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Mets and dropped a routine fly ball in Thursday’s finale. But Acta didn’t think Kearns, normally a reliable defender, was taking his struggles into the field.

“He’s not,” Acta said. “I asked him, and he said, ‘No, that had nothing to do with it. I got over there with enough time, and I just dropped the ball.’ ”



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