- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

If first baseman Dmitri Young or catcher Jesus Flores returns to the Washington Nationals lineup, it probably won’t be for more than a few at-bats in the season’s last few days. And even that possibility appears somewhat remote at this point.

Manager Manny Acta said Monday that both Young, who is nursing a strained left hip, and Flores, who has been out with a left ankle sprain since Sept. 2, are long shots to play much in the season’s final two weeks.

The Nationals ordered MRIs on Monday for both players; Flores’ showed no further damage to his ankle, which is still swollen after his collision with Philadelphia’s Chase Utley, while Young’s revealed a strained left hip, which was initially diagnosed as a strained left quadriceps muscle after he injured it running the bases during a rehab stint with Class A Vermont.

There had been some fears that the first baseman, who hasn’t played in the second half of the season while he has tried to get his diabetes and weight under control, had sustained a hernia. Even with the lesser injury, if he can get healthy enough to play yet this year, it would likely be as a pinch hitter.

“If it happens, it happens,” Young said. “If it doesn’t, I’m not going to lose sleep.”

Flores had started jogging and throwing over the weekend in Florida and said Friday he felt the best he had since the injury. But Acta said the catcher is still feeling some pain when he does squats, indicating he isn’t ready to put pressure on his ankle when he crouches into a catcher’s stance.

“He might be done [for the season],” Acta said. “The swelling just continues to be there.”

Acta also said the same odds are slim for right fielder Austin Kearns, who hasn’t played since Aug. 24 with a stress fracture in his left foot.

General manager Jim Bowden said at the time Kearns would be out four to six weeks. He has started playing catch but hasn’t been able to do much more than that.

“We’re not shutting the door on him, but there’s still a ways to go,” Acta said. “We’re not going to put him out there at risk. If he’s healthy, two or three games aren’t going to hurt him either way. He’s not going to go out there at 80 percent.”

Eckstein at third

Rick Eckstein, the Class AAA Columbus hitting coach who has joined the Nationals for the season’s last month, will be coaching third base for the next couple days while Tim Tolman attends to a family matter, a team spokesman said Monday.

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